Weather Forecast


Taking a dip into cocaine-laced waters?

Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, give or take.

Specimen samples from 50 of those lakes were collected by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find out just what is in the waters of this land.

The results? More than mussels.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released a study earlier in 2013 that revealed some controversial results. Alexandria’s Lake Darling was included in the findings.

Cocaine, DEET, synthetic estrogen, antibiotics and traces of antidepressants were present in 47 of 50 lakes sampled. DEET was found in more than three-quarters of the lakes and cocaine popped up in more than 30 percent of Minnesota lakes. There were 2.59 nanograms per liter (ng/L) of cocaine and 50.5 ng/L of DEET detected in Lake Darling.

Other chemicals, some in very small concentrations, detected in Lake Darling include: nonylphenols (found in detergent), triclosan and bisphenol A (used in making plastic), pharmaceuticals (commonly: acetaminophen, caffeine and penicillin) and hormones (ranging from livestock steroids to estrogen used in oral contraceptives).

Past studies have turned up chemicals with endocrine active properties that mimic the actions of naturally occurring hormones.  Fish and aquatic ecosystems are affected by the chemicals even at low concentration levels. Contraceptive medications, alkylphenols and antidepressants in waters have affected responses and reproductive behaviors in fish.

Researchers noted that these foreign substances are finding their ways into our waters because they are used by people every day. Chemicals get into the septic systems, water treatment plants and groundwater, which then comes into contact with lakes. Concern has been raised over what the pharmaceuticals will do to fish and aquatic species, like mussels.


Could chemical deposits be the culprit mucking up scientific research studies? Earlier this summer, an experiment to test the effectiveness of a biopesticide, Zequanox, on mussels that have been suffocating clams in Lake Darling was planned.

Jim Luoma with the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in LaCrosse, Wisconsin said the trial had to be terminated early due to “heavy filamentous algae growth in the lake, which was threatening our mussel containment areas.”

Luoma’s team is in the process of working up what data they were able to collect.

Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
(218) 333-9796