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Cause of river pollution found to be organic

By Staff | Sep 28, 2009

Michele Stindtman of the Faribault County Soil and Water Conservation District and Fire Chief Terry Campbell watch as Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials test contaminated water taken from the Blue Earth River.

Local officials weren’t taking any chances when they received a telephone call late Wednesday afternoon regarding dead fish along the Blue Earth River shore by the N. East Street bridge.

“There’s a group of boys who fish here every night. I think they got scared,” says Michele Stindtman of the Faribault County Soil and Water Conservation Dis-trict.

A mother of one of the boys contacted Stindt-man’s office and that set the wheels in motion.

The Minnesota Duty Officer was notified and members of the Mankato Fire Department were called in to assist.

Fire chief Terry Campbell says members of the Blue Earth Fire Department arrived at the scene around 6:30 p.m. and remained there for several hours. The Blue Earth Police Department also responded to the call.

“We helped in placing boom containments to keep the polluted water from moving further down the river,” Campbell says.

Officials say contamination of the river stretched about one mile, from the bridge on Highway 16 near Steinberg Nature Park to the one on N. East Street.

Organic pads were used to try and remove the unidentified pollutant from the water.

Telephone communication with Craig Schafer of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency emergency response team in Marshall determined the contaminated water was not creating a life-threatening situation and the public was not in any danger.

By Thursday afternoon, Schafer was collecting water from the river and looking for answers.

“I’m suspecting the cause is organic. It doesn’t look like it’s petroleum, but I’m not sure. We’re trying to determine where it (pollutant) came from,” he says.

After testing a small sample, Schafer’s instincts proved to be correct.

“I’m pretty sure it’s organic. The scum is the heaviest I’ve seen in five years,” he says.

Schafer commended the person who notified local authorities of the problem.

Anybody seeing something that isn’t right, he says, should contact the Minnesota Duty Officer, MPCA or 911.

“They can contact any of those numbers 24-7. Someone will help them,” he says.