MPCA Accepting Public Comments on Draft Impaired Waters List

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released its proposed impaired waters list for 2022, which includes 305 water bodies with 417 new impairments, bringing the total to 2,904 water bodies with 6,168 impairments. For the first time, the MPCA listed waters in Greater Minnesota with perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS) contamination. Other notable waters on the 2022 list include the Root River in southeastern Minnesota, Vermillion River in Dakota County, Lake Osakis in north central Minnesota, Norway Lake in Kandiyohi County, Lake Phalen in Ramsey County, and the St. Louis River.  

Unhealthy conditions for fish and insects continue to be the most common impairment, with 39 more lakes proposed for fish impairments and 104 streams for fish and/or insects. These impairments result from poor habitat and other conditions that stress aquatic life. Other proposed listings include high levels of bacteria (30 streams), sediment (25 streams), and nutrients (18 lakes). These impairments will lead to studies and plans to restore the waters to identified standards. 

PFAS continue to be found in new water bodies throughout Minnesota. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), a PFAS compound, can accumulate to levels of concern in fish and is transferred to humans when consumed, potentially causing adverse health effects.

The MPCA also proposed to add 15 water bodies as impaired for PFOS in fish tissue and, for the first time, includes water bodies in Greater Minnesota. The proposed listings include the St. Croix River in eastern Minnesota, from Taylors Falls Dam through Lake St Croix; Winona Lake in Alexandria in central Minnesota; and Wild Rice Lake and Fish Lake Flowage (main and west bays) in St. Louis County in northeast Minnesota. With the addition of these 15 waters, a total of 26 waters in Minnesota would be impaired due to PFOS, including waters already listed, such as the Mississippi River and Bde Maka Ska in the Twin Cities metro area. 

Using the Minnesota PFAS Blueprint as its guide, the MPCA and other State agencies continue to identify, manage, and clean up these “forever chemicals.” As the agency expands its PFAS monitoring, it expects to find new contamination in waters throughout the State.  

Written comments on Minnesota’s 2022 draft impaired waters list will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. on January 7, 2022. Comments should include whether additional water bodies should be added to the list or removed, the commenter’s name, contact information, and additional information such as water quality data that supports recommendations. Comments will be accepted via email or mail by Miranda Nichols, 520 Lafayette Road N, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194.

After deciding whether to change the list, based on comments received, the MPCA will submit the draft list, along with comments and responses, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for final approval. As required by the Federal Clean Water Act, Minnesota develops a list of impaired waters every two years. The draft 2022 list is due on April 1, 2022, to the USEPA, which will make the final decision on approving the list. To review the full list, more information about impairments, and five public meetings scheduled in December, visit the MPCA website