The impaired waters list: What does it mean?

You may have seen news about Minnesota’s impaired waters list recently. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced it is suggesting adding 305 water bodies – lakes and streams – throughout the state to the list that don’t meet state water quality standards.

Thirteen of the newly listed impairments are in the Vermillion River Watershed. Problems such as sediment, excess nutrients, and low dissolved oxygen levels make it tough for fish, insects, and other wildlife to thrive on the river. Not to mention, E. coli bacteria and mercury threaten human health and recreation. Sounds bleak when you think about it.

The good news is that we’re always working to remedy these impairments and protect our waters from further impairment. It’s in our watershed plan and related to everything that we do.

For example, the South Branch Vermillion River showed up several times in the list of new impairments. We’ve done a great deal of work there recently. Projects such as the Braun wetland restoration, woodchip nitrate treatment project, and nitrate reduction wetland in Castle Rock Township are estimated to significantly reduce the amount of pollutants going into the river and the groundwater we drink. Not to mention, these are some of the best waters in the Vermillion River for brown trout fishing.  While the South Branch Vermillion River and other sections of stream within the Vermillion River Watershed are proposed as new impairments, some of these impairments are the result of new or more restrictive water quality standards rather than severe degradation of the water resources.

MPCA must prepare new impaired waters lists every two years per the federal Clean Water Act. The list in question here is not a final document, but a draft open to public comment before the agency submits it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval. The MPCA invites written comments on the draft 2022 list through 4:30 p.m. CST on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.

  • Comment on whether additional water bodies should be added to the list or removed. Include your name, contact information, and information, such as water quality data, supporting your recommendation.
  • Email or mail comments to Miranda Nichols (, 520 Lafayette Road N, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194.
  • The MPCA will respond to all written comments submitted by the deadline.
  • The Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization will be submitting our own comments on the list as well.

Additionally, you can join a public information meeting online on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 1 p.m.

  • Meeting number (access code): 2487 766 0492
  • Meeting password: B95Eqw3QVPf

Download a copy of the impaired waters list and additional information at And don’t hesitate to contact us with any concerns or questions about the Vermillion specifically.