News Feature | June 22, 2015

New Contaminants Found Lurking In The Land Of 10,000 Lakes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Lake pollution is becoming a major problem in the state that calls itself “the land of 10,000 lakes.”

A chemical linked to X-ray technology is among the newest contaminants spotted by a Minnesota state agency. In a sweeping survey of contamination in Minnesota waterways, researchers “detected two drugs they hadn't seen before: Iopamidol, which is used in X-rays, was present in 73 percent of the lakes. About a third of the lakes contained the diabetes drug metformin,” Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reported.

The survey by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency tested 11 lakes and four rivers for 125 different chemicals. Many of the chemicals are suspected or known to be harmful to the environment or people, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

Study author Mark Ferrey explained that the significance of the findings is not what was found but, rather, patterns that have become apparent over the years.

“It's not just so much that we are finding these things. We have been for years. We now want to go beyond detection and determine what affect they having on fish and wildlife. And what concerns should we have about human health,” Ferrey said, according to West Texas News.

The results have prompted more research. “This summer the study will enter another phase when researchers begin to track down how even the most remote, northern border lake can have the presence of common pharmaceuticals,” CBS Minnesota reported.

In total, the researchers “found a total of 27 chemicals in the lakes they studied. In the rivers, they found 56 chemicals downstream of four wastewater treatment plants, and 33 chemicals upstream of those plants,” MPR reported.

The study also reviewed pharmaceutical and street drugs in the water, including “a wide-ranging brew of medicines, cosmetics, and even cocaine in the water,” CBS reported.

The most frequent chemical, found in more than 90 percent of the lake samples, was DEET. Along with DEET, disinfectants, antibiotics, hormones and pharmaceutical drugs were among the most frequent drugs, West Texas News reported.

For more of the latest chemicals being found in our water, visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.