The media team has recently aquired a confidential memo that was given to the youth Governor about a potential water crisis in St. Paul. Since early fall, the MN DNR has been more and more concerned about harmful algal blooms(HABs), caused by a higher level of phosphorous and nitrogen in the water supply. This has come to be an increasing issue, as there have been reports of a rising level of phosphorous and nitrogen in the municipal drinking water as well as the Mississippi River. This won’t be a problem now, but it will cause an issue in March or April, after the ice thaws off the lakes and rivers.
Algae is an important part of our ecosystem, but with these raised amounts of harmful chemicals in the water supply, there will be a dangerous overgrowth of the bacteria Microcystis. This bacteria caused by the chemicals given off from human waste, can and will cause problems in our wildlife populations. The biggest problem with this rise in bacteria is that a hot summer will cause the population to explode with all the nutrients for it found in normal runoff from agricultural activities.
HABs of substantial size are so toxic that they can severely damage the liver, as well as other organs. It also introduces high potential neurological risks for children, and puts pets at high risk as well.
The HABs block oxygen and sunlight from reaching the water beneath it, resulting in “Dead Zones” in lakes and can kill off an entire underwater ecosystem. HABs can latch on to fishing boats as well, which gives it the potential of spreading from lake to lake rapidly.
HABs will eventually die off without their nutrients from human waste, and certain weather conditions can also kill them off, such as lower than average temperatures. Although, it is likely with the earths rise in average temperature that HABs will bloom soon, last longer, and appear in a higher concentration.
In the past few years almost twenty other cities have dealt with similar situations, including Toledo, Ohio in 2014, because Lake Erie experiences this epidemic very frequently. Without proactive government efforts to thwart the growth, over 1.5 million people were left with no drinking water, and most people resorted to buying bottled water until the reservoir was deemed safe to drink from.
Bodies of water expected to have this issue include East Vadnais Lake, Pleasant Lake, Leech Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish, and the Mississippi River.
If the governor chooses the strongest possible approach to stop the algae, he will be pit up against some of the strongest legislative lobbies in Minnesota. It also remains to be seen which waterways the Governor will prioritize, but if he decides to attack all at once it won’t take as long for them all to be resolved, but it will effect the legislative agenda much more that if they are tackled one at a time. One of the most frightening options the Governor can choose is to simply do nothing, because of all of the negative effects it will have on all of the citizens of Minnesota.
Written by: Kenny Schmitt