Letter: Lake Okabena's condition can no longer be ignored
I am so disappointed at the water quality of Lake Okabena.
We still do not know why the water is so green. I think we have some 20-year-old data, but nothing recent. Is this the result of agricultural runoff such as cow manure, pork byproducts, farm fertilizer runoff or farm soil runoff? Or is it residential lawn runoff and runoff from land within the city? Is it a natural and unavoidable release of phosphate from the soil along Whisky Ditch?
Until we start testing the water, we will never know. What we do know is that water this green is going to get our swimmers sick, and also turn off any visitors to Worthington who sees this mess.
It is now mid-fall. The temps are cool, and the water is cooling rapidly. Yet the lake remains as green as ever. I encourage our councilmen and city officials to come on down and see for themselves. Let us ask: Have we done everything we can do (within a reasonable budget) to get the lake cleaned up? I grew in northern Minnesota and I do not think there is anything natural, or anything that is excusable, to have a lake like this.
I am pleased the City of Worthington invested millions in the YMCA, millions the fire station, a million in the old YMCA to create a senior center, and subsidized the new motel. I encourage the City of Worthington to invest some serious money and get the lake cleaned up. We may not be able to expect the State of Minnesota to step up and get this done in a reasonable amount of time. I think 90 percent of southwest Minnesota waterways are not identified as "impaired". There may be no state money available.
Or, maybe there is some money from that half-percent sales tax that is supposed to go to state conservation projects. Maybe it is time to call the state and see if we can get some of that money.
This lake represents the city of Worthington. Our guests see this when they come to town. And our guests and residents would like to swim, water ski (and windsurf), and fish in this lake.
Is Lake Okabena becoming unsafe to swim in? This may be the reality. We may need to start closing our lake whenever it gets this green. These algae blooms happen at anytime from May through October. This will be a publicity disaster, but may be necessary.
I think it starts with a program of water testing to see what is in the water. Then we can decide how to either prevent the chemicals getting in -- or a program of getting the chemicals out.
Thank you everyone for listening.