Monitoring water quality on the Whitewater River: ‘Our goal is never seeing a fish kill’

(Minnesota DNR)

STOCKTON, Minn. — Six new machines will soon be installed to monitor water quality on three branches of a trout-fishing waterway in Minnesota.

The LimnoTech machines will monitor stream levels, temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity, the Post Bulletin reported. They’ll also take samples when rain or snowmelt swells the Whitewater River’s branches. The south, middle and north branches of the river will be monitored until they meet around Elba.

The state’s Legacy Amendment will fund the $500,000 project, said Neal Mundahl, a biology professor at the Winona State University who is leading the water study. The study is expected to last two years, but the machines could be reused in other streams, he said.

The university’s tests will be able to detect chemicals in parts per billion or even in lower amounts. Researchers will look for chemicals that are created when other chemicals breakdown.

“We are looking for some of those newer ones, the ones that have not been examined too often,” Mundahl said. “That was the kind of information that was lacking when we had that fish kill.”

Thousands of fish were killed after heavy rain in July 2015. The source of the contamination wasn’t identified because the chemicals had left the system by the time reports were made about the dead fish.

The machines could help researchers identify the source of contaminated water if a contamination occurs.

“We will get tons of data, no matter what,” Mundahl said. “Our goal is never seeing a fish kill, never detect anything really nasty.”

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