Winter can be a difficult time for us Minnesotans, not only because of the weather but also because we are separated from one of our favorite pastimes — enjoying the waterways that give our state its namesake, “the land of clear water.” However, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that fishing, swimming and drinking from Minnesota’s lakes and rivers is not always an advisable practice.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has tested our waterways and found that nearly half are considered impaired, meaning they do not meet water-quality standards. We know that many lake impairments are caused by nitrogen and phosphorous pollution, which enters our waterways through agricultural runoff from products like fertilizers, manure, and pesticides.
Despite the apparentness of this problem, the MPCA currently has no standards in place for pollutants in our waterways, meaning they cannot begin to enact improvements.
This is a problem for the state as a whole but for the Mankato area especially. The Minnesota River is a source of local pride (we are the “city-at-the-bend” after all) and hub of activities and events like the Mahkato Pow-Wow at Land of Memories and concerts at Riverfront Park. Allowing pollutants to seep into our river is an affront to our heritage and our city.
Luckily, the solution is quite apparent. We must make sure the MPCA and Gov. Mark Dayton set river-nutrient standards, which would then allow them to create strategies and methods for reducing the pollution.
Only after these changes are made will we be able to reclaim our waterways from the clutches of pollution.