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Ask a 'sotan: How much does it cost to clean a lake of pollution?

It's really tough, but not impossible

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Dan Livdahl tests the clarity of Lake Okabena.
Dan Livdahl, District Administrator for the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed drops a Secchi disc in Lake Okabena to test the water clarity in 2016.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

Ask a 'sotan is an occasional series exploring the questions from curious Minnesotans about our state. Have a question about life in Minnesota? Ask it here.

We're asking folks at the State Fair what they're most curious about, then asking folks around MPR to find the answer. Here’s a question close to many Minnesotans’ hearts: How much does it cost to clean a lake of pollution?

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 40 percent of Minnesota’s lakes and streams are impaired — meaning they fail to meet one or more water quality standards.

Given all the different factors that go into the process of cleaning a lake, it’s impossible to apply an average dollar amount. While not impossible, removing pollutants from a body of water is costly, time-consuming and rare.

In addition to the equipment and construction needed, a big part of the cost is actually educating and paying residents and farmers around the lake to change their behavior so the water doesn’t continue to be polluted.

MPR News reporter Cody Nelson looked at two cases in which a local community cleaned up a body of water. One of those cases featured First Fulda Lake.

Step one was looking for grants to pay for fixing up the lake. Then the watershed district began working with farmers on a drainage-improvement project to ensure they had buffers on open ditches, and swapping in rock inlets for open-tile intakes. Read the full story via this link:

First Fulda Lake has been part of a decades-long cleanup effort.
First Fulda Lake has been part of a decades-long cleanup effort.
Courtesy of Jan Voit

It takes more than just funding to fix the conditions of a lake, it takes community organization and political willpower. Back in 2016, MPR News reporter Mark Steil wrote about the efforts to clean up Okabena Lake in Worthington.


Have a question about life in Minnesota? Submit your question here.