State pollution officials have begun monitoring the Upper Mississippi River as part of a large-scale study to analyze the waterway's health in terms of aquatic life, recreation and fish consumption.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will take water chemistry samples over two years and analyze them by late 2015. Researchers hope the wide-ranging study will make it easier to pinpoint the cause of any pollution issues, the St. Cloud Times reported.
Scientists will collect bugs, fish and water samples to test for contamination, researcher Mike Feist said.
Previous studies have tended to focus on single parameters, but combining the efforts could yield more valuable information, he said.
"If we survey the fish and they don't look very good . by sampling all these different parameters at the same time, it helps us to identify why," Feist said. "We can better say what the problem is."
The MPCA is already halfway through a 10-year effort to assess the smaller rivers, streams and lakes throughout the state's 81 watersheds. The Mississippi is the first of the state's five large rivers scheduled to be sampled over the next five years, the agency said.
Under terms of the federal Clean Water Act, the MPCA already files reports with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every two years. Water samples are sent to the Minnesota Department of Health, which measures nutrient levels, suspended solids, dissolved oxygen and pH. The latest study is expected to complement those efforts.
Assessment is expected to continue on a 10-year cycle unless adverse findings prompt further tests.
After the Mississippi River is tested, the MPCA will move on to the Minnesota, Rainy, Red and St. Croix rivers.