How Clean Is The Missouri River?


Bismarck – As the temperatures heat up, you may be looking toward the Missouri as a way to cool off.

But is it safe?

It’s America’s longest river…no not the Mississippi…but the Missouri…and it runs right through the heart of North Dakota…so as many of you take to the Missouri for your summer activities…did you ever stop to think… how clean is the river?

The Missouri is known as the center of life for the Great Plains…stretching over 23-hundred miles from near Bower’s Spring Montana all the way to St Louis…that’s a long way…in-fact longer than any river in the US…and all that length presents plenty of opportunities for pollution…people KX News spoke with tell us as Bismarck grows, so does the risk for additional pollution.

“Because of the refinery, and I live down here right by the river so I always see whatever that flotsam, whatever you call that is floating down the river, and there is quite a bit of trash in the summer when students are out and people don’t throw away their trash,” said Bismarck Resident Kathy Berg

But not everyone thinks the Missouri is polluted…

“I’ve lived here for about 30 years and I’ve fished this river…there’s times when the water levels raised from releases up at Garrison where you get a little bit extra sediment coming down, but all in all for a river, it’s very clean in my opinion”, said Bismarck Resident Jeff Conlon.

In 2017, the last year full data was available, the EPA says nearly 135-thousand pounds of direct toxic discharges were put into North Dakota waterways.

And while the Missouri may be a swimming pool for many…you can’t exactly dump a whole bunch of Chlorine in it to keep it clean.

Karl Rockeman is the director of Water Quality for the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality and tells KX News the Missouri is actually cleaner than anyone thinks it is…

“The Missouri River in the Bismarck-Mandan area really is one of our jewels of the state, it’s a wonderful aquatic resource used for many purposes, recreation being one of them and we’re very fortunate that it is of excellent quality here through the area”, said Rockeman

And that’s good because a dirty Missouri has far reaching consequences,

watershed is responsible for a fourth of all agricultural land in the United States.

Rockeman adds while things are good here…it’s a different story in Fargo…

“As we get into the eastern part of the state with larger populations, and a lot more intensive agriculture, the Red River is a concern for us not only because it’s a resource for us but because we share that resource with Minnesota and it also goes through Canada”, said Rockeman

So enjoy the Missouri while you can…because it’s only a matter of time before it’s frozen over yet again.

One thing you are urged to watch out for this summer are harmful algae blooms if your outdoor plans involve a pond or a lake. Those can be especially dangerous to your pets.

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