The ‘big mix’

SGS for Gas 024.jpg

My friend, Pete Howell (he’s the pilot I’ve written about who rescues dogs), was flying around the Twin Cities on Saturday and took some amazing photographs of our fair cities by air. This one, in particular, struck me. I’ve always referred to the Mississippi River as “America’s longest sewer.”

As anger builds over BP’s destruction of the Gulf of Mexico, there’s plenty of pollution around here to disgust us, too.

Find more pictures here.

  • No one can say there isn’t pollution, but how much of that discoloration is simply silt? In any event the photo is dramatic and makes a point about runoff and indirectly what runs off with it.

  • I think its silt and mud more than pollution, but it certainly shows the difference in the nature of the two watersheds.

    I suspect that the geology of the two rivers also plays a role here as well.

  • Garrett

    It’s mostly silt and mud, and the Mississippi picks up a lot of that material from the Minnesota River. You see the same mixing effect where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers combine.

  • Bob Collins

    There isn’t the agricultural run-off in the St. Croix as in the Mississippi (mostly by way of the Minnesota).

  • Vicky

    Aah – I am relieved to read the posts by Garrett and Bob as they cover what I was going to ask – I would love to see a photo of the Minnesota/Mississippi mix.

  • Minn Whaler

    all I care is that I will not be swimming in “ole Muddy” by choice, but the St. Croix… now that is really pretty, and most importantly: What a great photograph!

  • Jonathon

    It seems that much of the difference could also be attributed to the fact that upstream of this photo, the St. Croix is essentially a lake in which most of the suspended fines settle out.

  • Garrett

    Photo of Minnesota/Mississippi confluence

  • Trevor

    Most of the cloudiness (turbidity) in the Mississippi River is indeed the result of suspended sediments (silt, sand, mud) in the water – which are very much pollutants of concern for our rivers.

    These sediments, most of which are from farm runoff on the Minnesota River basin, choke out plant and animal life in the river. They also transport attached bacteria and algae-causing nutrients downstream, impacting fishing and water recreation in throughout the river. This nutrient pollution in turn contributes to the Dead Zone in the gulf of Mexico, while polluting the drinking water of 20 million Americans along the way.

    38 years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, isn’t it time we clean up our water?

  • Bill

    Tons of sediment and OIL.

    From the FMR website:

    Yes, you can reduce ocean oil contamination!

    Oil from driveways, parking lots, and other sources flows into storm drains, ultimately ending up in our streams, lakes, rivers and ocean.

    At times, images from the BP spill seem inescapable and overwhelming, making all the “small” things we do to help the environment seem futile. But they’re not. According to Ocean Link, an educational program of Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, large oil spills and offshore drilling annually constitute just over 7 percent of ocean oil contamination — over 50 percent arrives via storm drains. (A full rundown is available from the Ocean Link site. We should note that there are variations in how different groups divvy up oil contamination sources, but the theme is fairly consistent.)

  • Todd Paddock

    Trevor is correct. Sediment, most of which is farm runoff, is a major threat to the health of the Upper Miss River. We need to reduce that as much as possible. The Miss R was clear when Europeans arrived.

    But it’s too simple to think that a muddy river is polluted and a clear river is clean. Some of the least polluted rivers on earth are muddy (think of the rivers of the Amazon basin, for example). Here in North America, the first Europeans to see the Missouri River described it as very muddy.

    If you want people to care about the Miss R, calling it “America’s longest sewer” will not help. It’s also inaccurate. There is nothing unhealthy about swimming in the Upper Miss. Personally, I would argue that it is healthier than a chlorinated pool. Further, the Upper Miss R in particular is biologically diverse and very productive. We are lucky to live near it.

    We can do many things to make the Upper Miss R a healthier river. That’s why we want to encourage people to get out on the river, not be afraid of it. We want them to swim, wade, kayak, canoe, fish, boat, and so on. People who do will care more about the river, and they will join in wanting to make it a healthier river.

  • Amy

    To reiterate what Todd said about “clean” vs. muddy water-The St. Croix’s polluted too, it’s just all that stuff you can’t see like mercury from coal powered plants and PCBs. You can add your excess nutrients in their too.

    The MPCA website has all impaired waters for the state of MN that have been assessed so far in red-needless to say the state lights up like a stop sign.

    Great picture, although I’d say the “clean” over the St. Croix is a bit misleading and yes, sediment is a pollutant as well as carrying them along with it.

    Practices have to change for these pollutants to decrease, both in energy and agriculture as well as your everyday stormwater pollution.