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Letter: City should move forward with MPCA recommendations

I am writing to strongly encourage the City Council to move forward with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recommendations. Continuing to challenge its findings will delay the inevitable and will only increase costs.

Water quality has been a long-standing concern in our community. I worked at the Albert Lea Tribune when our watershed board was formed to lead this effort. It was initially a grassroots effort, with the greater community involved in keeping grass out of the storm drains, planting rain gardens and working to develop fish barriers.

I advocated and voted for the half-cent sales tax when it was first introduced; I did not vote in favor in 2016. Though progress has been made, it has not been as comprehensive as it should be to address the deeper issues.

Our community has focused on the beauty of our waterways and the recreation opportunities. We must also consider how water quality impacts our health and sustainability.

I have read the assessments issued by the MPCA, as well as the Freeborn County Comprehensive Water Plan, issued in 2016. The recommendations align and include protection of groundwater from contamination, reducing excess nutrients and chemicals by controlling surface water runoff, protecting and preserving existing shore lands and preserving wetlands.

There was another assessment performed by Pale Blue Dot LLC in 2018, which determined the impact of concerning trends on vulnerable populations.

Children, older adults, individuals with disabilities and individuals under economic stress will continue to be the most impacted by water quality issues. The assessment found that water stress is currently at medium to high, but will reach high concern by 2040. Water stress occurs when the demand for water exceeds the available amount or when poor quality restricts its use.

The health of our local waterways is already impacting plant and animal life in the area. It will continue to impact the health of our community members, as well as those who live downstream from us.

It is our responsibility to ensure not only the health of our own children, but those who are impacted by our actions or inaction.

We are lucky to live in an area with viable water sources. Many communities are struggling to navigate dwindling water supplies and drought, which has caused forests and cities to burn to the ground.

Our problems may seem costly, but they are manageable with good partnerships. The MPCA and other organizations, such as the Department of Natural Resources, want us to be successful in our efforts. It is time to step up and do whatever we can to address the concern we face: water quality. I am in full support of the research and recommendations of the MPCA.

Ann Austin

Albert Lea