MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) –In the town of Worthington, lake life is a part of the culture.

“Whenever we poll the community about what the most important features are, what their proudest of in the community, Lake Okabena always comes in number one,” Okabena Ocheda Watershed District’s Dan Livdahl said.

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That is why the growing algae problem in the lake is a big concern. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency blames agricultural practices as the biggest problem behind the chemicals and bacteria contaminating the runoff water that spills into the lake.

“About 80 percent of the land that drains towards the lake is in agricultural production right now,” Livdahl said.

Tim Doeden is the assistant technical officer at the water treatment company Bioverse.

“I think the realization is we weren’t surprised that there are some issues with the lake,” Doeden said.

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He says cleaning the two billion gallons of water in Lake Okabena isn’t as simple as filtering it out, due to volume and cost.

“There’s a problem that took maybe 100 years to create, it’s going to take several years to fix,” Doeden said.

Experts say it will take collaboration with both farmers and urban dwellers to help stop the polluting.

“We would like it to be better and we’re working to make it better,” Livdahl said.

Two local experts say Lake Okabena is cloudy and dirty, but they think it’s OK to swim in until August or September — which is when the algae gets very bad.

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Click here to visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s website to learn more information on how to help combat pollution in southern Minnesota lakes.

Kate Raddatz