South-Central Minnesotans Rally Around River Pollution Standards

For Immediate Release

Saint Paul, MN – Today, on the heels of their “Clean Water Week of Action,” Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center sent a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, urging approval of river phosphorous standards proposed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the creation of comparable ones for nitrogen. The letter’s signatories included a host of students, professors, farmers, business owners, city officials, and concerned citizens from cities like Mankato, Saint Peter, and Northfield.

“This broad coalition of citizens from all walks of life really shows how salient the issue of clean water is for Minnesotans,” said Lucas Melby, a Mankato-area resident and intern with Environment Minnesota. “People recognize that as a state we are simply not doing enough to curtail water pollution.”

The letter also addresses the significant role that the agricultural industry plays in the contamination of Minnesota’s waterways. Over 73 percent of the excess nitrogen in Minnesota’s waters comes from agriculture and around half of tested waterways have been found to be “impaired,” meaning they do not meet water quality standards and can be unsafe for drinking, swimming, and fishing. Excessive phosphorous in particular can cause waters to become eutrophic and overcome with slimy and harmful algal blooms. These conditions have caused concern for citizens.

"Growing up in rural central Minnesota, I have seen the effects of accelerated eutrophication resulting from unregulated farm runoff. Unable to swim in our lake due to high, unsafe levels of algae, I experienced firsthand the harmful effects of water contamination in Minnesota. Our lakes and waterways are our pride in this state, and we need to take measures to preserve their beauty," said Rebecca Hare, co-president of the Gustavus Greens student group at Gustavus Adolphus College.

If approved by Governor Dayton, these standards would set limits on how much phosphorous Minnesota waterways can hold. The letter signers requested similar standards be enacted for nitrogen. With such limits in place, more effective cleanup plans and strategies could be implemented in the future.

“We need a strong regulative foundation before we can start building plans that would hold polluters, and especially the agricultural industry, more accountable for their harmful actions. These standards are that foundation,” said Melby.

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Contact: Lucas Melby, Clean Water intern, Environment Minnesota. lucas@environmentminnesota.org, Office: 612-331-8404, Cell Phone: 507-351-7570

Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. www.EnvironmentMinnesotaCenter.org