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Sibley, Mayo lakes are impaired


Lake Country Echo Editor

Sibley and Mayo lakes near Pequot Lakes are on the state’s list of impaired waters because of high phosphorus levels, and about 20 people turned out for a meeting last week to discuss what will be done to help the lakes.

The Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hosted the meeting about the lakes’ water quality Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Cole Memorial Building in Pequot Lakes.

The hope is to involve citizens in plans to set pollution reduction goals for the lakes with the ultimate goal of improving the lakes’ water quality over the next two years.

The federal Clean Water Act requires the MPCA to assess the state’s waters. The systematic approach includes monitoring the state’s 81 watersheds in 10-year cycles, hoping to see improvement where needed in those 10 years.

The Crow Wing Watershed study began in 2010 with the MPCA conducting a two-year analysis of lakes and streams within the watershed to determine if they meet water-quality standards.

Of the 158 lakes studied in the Crow Wing Watershed, 105 were healthy, 36 didn’t have enough information to determine their health, 10 couldn’t be assessed for various reasons and seven were impaired.

Impaired lakes include Mayo and Sibley, Lake Margaret on the Gull Chain of Lakes and four lakes near Park Rapids. Lake Margaret has been on the state’s list of impaired waters for phosphorus for several years and work has been ongoing to improve the lake’s water quality.

The next step for Sibley and Mayo is to review existing data to determine where pollution is coming from and then to develop a plan to reduce that pollution.

Some of those attending the meeting questioned farming practices around Sibley and Mayo lakes as the source of phosphorus. SWCD and MPCA spokespeople present said they didn’t want to point fingers at anyone; they want a team approach to work together to determine pollution sources.

Other sources of pollution besides agricultural practices can include rainfall that leads to runoff into lakes, human waste from septic systems, lawns right next to lakeshores and phosphorus from years ago that has been sitting in the sediment.

While Sibley and Mayo lakes aren’t as clear as officials would like, there is no strong trend toward significant or quick decline, they said. The lakes are stable.

Looking at numbers, Mayo Lake, which is shallow, was found to have 36 parts per billion (ppb) of phosphorus compared to the state standard of 30 ppb. It also measured 18 ppb for algae compared to the state standard of nine, and met the state standard of two meters for transparency.

Sibley Lake’s numbers totaled 33 ppb for phosphorus, 20 ppb for algae and 1.5 meters (4-5 feet) for transparency.

SWCD and MPCA officials plan to return in about a year to share results of studies done over the winter.