ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Wednesday, Nov. 13, announced the proposed addition of 581 new bodies of water to the list of streams and lakes that do not meet state water quality standards.
In total, the draft of the agency's impaired waters list for 2020 notes the presence of approximately 5,770 quality issues in 3,416 separate bodies of water. New entries to the list, however, do not necessarily suggest the presence of pollution where none was previously observed.
"We went to lakes and streams that we had no data on," said Miranda Nichols, the agency's water quality assessment coordinator. "With that, we found good waters, but we also found impairments."
The assessment of the Minnesota's 80 major watersheds found that 368 streams and 56 lakes do not adequately support aquatic life. Bacteria levels in 69 streams and one Lake Superior beach, meanwhile, were found to be high enough to potentially cause illness.
The assessment also concluded that 85% of water pollutants in the state — such as nitrogen, phosphorus, chloride and bacteria — cannot be traced back to single source.
Additionally, four bodies of water are proposed to be removed from the list: Sleepy Eye Lake in Brown County, Faille Lake in Todd County and Waverly Lake in Wright County. Nutrient and bacteria levels in all four lakes are now low enough to allow for recreational use, the agency said.
In general, Nichols said that for a body of water to be removed from the list requires that it meet certain bacteria or nutrient thresholds for a certain number of years.
Minnesota is required by the federal Clean Water Act to update its impaired water list every even-numbered year. Once approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the list is then used in part by county and local entities to develop remedial strategies.
The state is requiring each of the 80 watersheds to develop its own restoration strategy by 2023. By 2025, watershed districts are due to create more comprehensive plans with input from local governments, conservation districts and water management organizations. Ground-level restoration practices are funded in part by the Minnesota Clean Water Fund, which was created with the passage of the state Legacy Amendment in 2008.
The list, Nichols said, "really spurs the next steps, and that is restoring these waters."
Public comment will be accepted on the proposed list from now until January 14, 2020. The MPCA will hold a series of public meetings on the list throughout Minnesota in December.