The Mississippi River and the Gulf Dead Zone

Media Releases

“Green Ideas” Breakfast Forum Explores River Pollution

Environment Minnesota

Environment Minnesota is holding its next Green Ideas & Ham monthly breakfast forum on Tuesday Nov. 20 from 8:00-9:30 a.m. This month’s topic is the massive dead zone 16,000 kilometers large that forms every summer in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Mississippi River meets the coast in Louisiana. The pollution that causes this dead zone starts right here in Minnesota.
At the forum, attendees will hear from Cynthia Sarthou from New Orleans, the executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network, a leading organization focused on environmental issues facing the Gulf of Mexico. There will also be a short update from Trevor Russell from Friends of the Mississippi River, and Lark Weller of the National Park Service about the latest trends in water quality and river health right here at home in the metro area Mississippi river. The forum will include time for audience questions and discussion on the topic.
WHERE: Green Ideas & Ham is held at the Red Stag Supperclub 509 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
WHEN: Tuesday, November 20, 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Doors open at 7:30 a.m.
HOW: The forum is open to the public and costs $15. Attendees are asked to please RSVP at
WHY: The mighty Mississippi River is important to many here in Minnesota. Some people see it every day as they commute to work in the Twin Cities area. Many folks may have visited at its source in Itasca State Park, or live in communities all along the scenic river. But by the time the Mississippi River flows out of Minnesota into Iowa, it’s already polluted. Come to the forum to discuss how we can do better — for the Gulf, for the Mississippi and for the sake of communities here in Minnesota.
About half of tested waterways in the state are considered “impaired,” and don’t meet basic pollution standards. Many waterways are no longer safe for fishing and swimming.
Much of the pollution problem is sediment loading, or eroded dirt that fills in waterways. In addition, nutrients in the form of phosphorus and nitrogen runoff into waterways and cause problems like excess algae blooms that harm other aquatic life and clog up waterways. Many of our rivers are experiencing this problem, but Lake Pepin, along the Mississippi River, is a poster child for our water quality crisis in Minnesota. Each year, one million metric tons of sediment fills in the river from the south end of the of the metro area to Lake Pepin. That’s like the volume of a downtown city block filled over the height of the Foshay Tower (454 feet)!
The great challenge is that the biggest source of runoff effecting our rivers in Minnesota – runoff from agriculture, is largely except from water quality standards, and few effective programs exist to limit and reduce this pollution. Along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, studies show that the great majority of sediment comes from agricultural lands, in fact 13 times more runoff pollution comes from agriculture than from urban sources.
The time has come for more effective measures to protect and clean up our waterways, to restore Minnesota’s important rivers to health and improve water quality for downstream neighbors.