Minnesota River is "unhealthy" -- MPCA blames sediment runoff - KXLT - Fox 47 Rochester MN News, Weather, Sports #rochmn

Minnesota River is "unhealthy" -- MPCA blames sediment runoff

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MANKATO, Minn. (FOX 47) -

State officials say the Minnesota River is "unhealthy."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said it surveyed all 338 miles of the Minnesota River, starting in Big Stone Lake and ending in St. Paul where the Minnesota and the Mississippi Rivers meet.

Too many sediments, nutrients, bacteria, and increased water flow are the MPCA's main concerns.

The increasing water flow is the biggest problem the Minnesota River is facing.

Accelerated erosion of river banks, reduced water quality, and a threat to infrastructure are all the results of that greater water flow. 

The MPCA said in its report that "in the last 80 years, the flows have doubled in the Minnesota River. It isn't just an increase in precipitation causing increased flow; the river actually carries more water now per square inch of rain than historically."

High sediment levels result in poor habitat for river life; including fish, mussels, and aquatic insects.

Farm fields are responsible for contributing 35 percent of the sediments in the Minnesota River, with the remaining 65 percent coming from unstable stream banks, ravines, and collapsing bluffs.

High phosphorus levels allow the river to produce large amounts of algae that can result in algae blooms, especially during the hot and dry, summer months.

Algae blooms use up all available oxygen needed by fish and other river life to survive, along with making the river unusable for recreation.

Elevated nitrate levels in the river poses a threat to drinking water and can be toxic for fish and other river life.

Bacteria levels in the river have risen to the point of being a concern. 

Although the level has not interfered with recreational activities, it has raised the risk of illness with the sources of bacteria coming from manure runoff and failing septic systems.

With more than 80 percent of the land in the Minnesota River basin being used for agriculture, progress is being made to slow down and filter runoff going into the river from local farms.

The MPCA said wastewater treatment plants are also making efforts to reduce the amount of phosphorus being released into the river.

Over the last 16 years, 274 wastewater treatment facilities along the river have reduced their phosphorus discharge by 65 percent which in turn has raised the amount of dissolved oxygen for fish and other river life.

For more information on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's report, click here.

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