So, What is the State of the Mississippi River?

November Civic Buzz · Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How is the Mississippi? Is water pollution improving? Can I swim in it?

Our speaker will discuss the findings published in the new State of the River Report—improvements as well as concerns.

Trevor Russell

Trevor Russell

Our guest speaker Trevor Russell. Mr Russell has served as Friends of the Mississippi River Water Program Director since 2006. He has a degree in economics from the Colorado College, and has 16 years of experience in community organizing, environmental education, and environmental & public health advocacy. Prior to joining FMR, Trevor served as Land Use & Transportation Organizer for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.

So, what is the State of the Mississippi River in the Metro?

How is the Mississippi River? Can I swim in it? Is water pollution improving? Can I eat the fish I catch? What can we do about Asian carp? Do I need to be concerned about bacteria in the river? At the Civic Buzz on Nov. 1 Trevor Russell of Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) will help answer these questions.

Lark Weller of the National Park Service and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA) and our speaker Trevor Russell, Water Policy Advocate for FMR, have produced the second edition of the State of the River Report, originally published in 2012.

We all know that the Mississippi River is a complex natural system, with many factors affecting its health, and by extension, our own health. According to the new report, some aspects of the metro river have improved, but other indicators are cause for concern, both for wildlife and recreation, and also for our metro drinking water. The Executive Summary of the 2016 State of the River Report states the following:

  • “The river is once again home to healthy bald eagle, mussel, and fish populations. As pollution has been cleaned up and habitat restored, wildlife has rebounded. These are symbols of our shared ability to rejuvenate the Mississippi River, and are an inspiration for future success.
  • While the river meets standards for pesticides and chloride, vigilance is required to minimize the potential impacts of these pollutants over time.
  • Several indicators are cause for concern. The river is impaired by excess sediment, bacteria and phosphorus, degrading aquatic habitat and recreation. Fish consumption guidelines are in place throughout the river due to elevated levels of contaminants like PFOS and mercury. While we remain optimistic, it is clear that much more work remains to resolve these problems.
  • Other indicators are cause for alarm. River flows have multiplied to worrisome levels, destabilizing the river system and delivering large amounts of pollution. Nitrate concentrations have increased substantially. Invasive Asian carp continue to move upstream, with potentially devastating consequences to aquatic life and recreation. The solutions to these problems require new tools and determined public action before they move beyond our reach.
  • Microplastic fibers, pharmaceuticals and triclosan-derived dioxins in the metro river pose uncertain risks to aquatic life and health. Additional research and collective action are required to mitigate their potential long-term impacts.”

According to the Report, the river today is healthier than is has been in a generation or more; consider the return of bald eagles and Canada geese, just for a start. This means concerted public action can have a positive effect on the areas of continuing concern in order to assure a cleaner, healthier Mississippi River for future generations.

Look to Friends of the Mississippi River’s State of the River Report Stewardship Guide to learn what you can do in your own home, yard and neighborhood to help protect our river. FMR’s State of the River Report Policy Guide will tell you about action federal, state and local leaders can take to preserve our river. And the State of the River Report Teacher’s Guide will help parents and teachers pass along the lessons found in the report.