Mercury and Minnesota

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Given the prominence of our lakes and fishing to Minnesota’s way of life, it’s really no wonder that mercury has been a giant issue of concern the last many years.  Most of the times that researchers look for mercury in a Minnesota lake or a big fish, they find it.   This is why our Department of Health has issued statewide advisories on the quantity of fish each of us should eat in a week or month.

Mercury has also been a topic of much controversy.  Finding mercury in our water at unsafe levels meant that our state needed to create a “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) plan for every body of water affected – in other words, to figure out where the pollution was coming from and how to get rid of it.  Because mercury is basically everywhere they look and because the mercury in our lakes and rivers primarily comes from the mercury in our air, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency opted to create one, statewide TMDL plan for Minnesota.  Whenever a TMDL is created, it is submitted for approval to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Tuesday, the EPA approved Minnesota’s Mercury TMDL.

Despite all of the previous controversy, now comes the really hard part.  Now it is time to implement the clean up plan.  The MPCA is looking to help smooth that process by creating a couple of stakeholder groups – a smaller one to be more engaged and a larger one for advice and guidance.  It is modeled after the original working groups that put together Clean Water Legacy, which was, as this will be, convened by Minnesota Environmental Initiative

Questions remain of course – such as how to address the fact that the clean-up target number corresponds to a number of fish eaten by the average Minnesotan, not those who rely on fish as a part of their culture or as an affordable meal and therefore tend to eat more fish.  Hopefully, the implementation plan will be created quickly though, and be comprehensive enough to fill in the holes. 

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