The root of pollution for the mighty Mississippi
Water quality in the Mississippi River continues to be an issue in Minnesota.

"We keep putting waste where we drink," said Steve Johnson who grew up on the Mississippi in Brooklyn Park. "Constantly. We drink this stuff."

From Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River is a dumping ground - and that includes the northwest metro.

"Unfortunately the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities area is still impaired for water quality," said Whitney Clark of Friends of the Mississippi River. "It does not meet our state water quality standards for phosphorous, nitrogen, and bacteria."

Yes, the mighty Mississippi isn't so mighty these days. Phosphorous and nitrogen levels have polluted the rivers once pristine waters.

"The predominant source of phosphorous in the metro Mississippi is agricultural runoff," Clark said. "Not urban lawns or pets."

Farmland runoff is carried to the Mississippi by tributaries such as the Crow and Minnesota Rivers. This affects everyone who uses it.

Said Clark: "It definitely makes our recreation experience much less pleasant when you are swimming or trying to recreate in pea green water."

In the northwest suburbs, residents can try to keep the river clean by picking up after their dogs and cleaning up yard waste.

"Rake up," Clark said. "Sweep up. Pick up."

Storm drains suck up phosphorous-laden yard debris and it winds up in the Mississippi. For Johnson, seeing the Mississippi's demise is tough.

"Does everybody need a golf course for a front yard?" said Johnson. "Let it grow. Let a few bugs enjoy it and mother nature. I've seen nature go down the tubes in my life and it's kind of sad."

Eric Nelson, reporting



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