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Area rivers, lakes make 'polluted' list

Several bodies of water in south Washington County and Woodbury are on the Minnesota 2016 List of Impaired Waters, released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last month.

New on the list is Mississippi River Pool 2 through Washington County. The list also includes Woodbury's Carver, Colby, Fish, La, Markgrafs, Tanners and Wilmes lakes. Battle Creek and the Vermillion River, along with several unnamed creeks and ditches, also are on the state list.

Several of these bodies of water have eutrophication biological indicators, meaning that too many nitrates and phosphates have caused algae growth that depletes water-oxygen levels for aquatic organisms. This condition was reported in Colby, Fish, La, Markgrafs and Wilmes lakes.

Other reported issues in other lakes are water chloride levels and mercury found in fish tissue, in Battle Creek and Carver and Tanners lakes.

The Mississippi and Vermillion rivers face different pollution issues, many having to do with industrial chemicals that have ended up in the waters. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, most fish from the rivers have low levels of pollutants and are safe to eat and the water is safe for swimming.

Once the list is released, both local and state actions begin.

"When we put something on the list, we look at how can we get them to meet water quality standards again," Impaired Waters List coordinator Miranda Nichols said.

Angie Hong, East Metro Water Resource education program coordinator, said runoff is often the culprit for pollution in these waters.

"The vast majority of pollution is a result of runoff," Hong said. "We have both industrial and agricultural runoff, but we've done a good job cutting off industrial pollution."

Hong said there are several programs developed in the south Washington County area to address water cleanup efforts, including through watershed districts.

"There is a lot of work being done on the local level," Hong said. "There are pollution prevention plans in place. It's a slow process, but there's a lot of work begin done. Efforts are happening."

About 40 percent of Minnesota's natural bodies of water are impaired in some way, according to the Minnesota Pollution Agency.