No plan to test Madison lakes after cocaine found in Minn. waters

Phosphorus focus of tests in Dane County lakes
No plan to test Madison lakes after cocaine found in Minn. waters
Don Heilman, president of the Clean Lakes Alliance

There are no immediate plans to test for cocaine and pharmaceutical drugs in Madison-area lakes after trace amounts showed up in a neighboring state’s lakes.

A study found dozens of chemicals, including DEET, in several Minnesota lakes. Boaters on Lake Mendota said the cocaine finding was especially unbelievable.

The Clean Lakes Alliance of Madison will look into the time and costs associated with testing for the chemicals in the Yahara watershed, but the group remains focused on reducing phosphorus levels, said Don Heilman, the organization’s president.

“I hope (cocaine) isn’t a major concern,” he said. “We’ve really tried to keep our eye on phosphorus because it’s been such a problem here for so long, and I think we’ve really got our hands around what needs to be done and we’re attacking it.”

After testing the waters, the group has a 14-point action plan aimed at cutting phosphorus levels by 50 percent. The plan includes urban and rural items, such as better leaf management, preventing construction erosion, and more manure-digesting methods.

There was no explanation for how cocaine got in Minnesota’s lakes, nor what its effects could be.

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Pharmaceuticals likely got in the lakes after people flushed them down toilets or put them down sink drains, Heilman said.

People putting their boats in Lake Mendota on Wednesday had mixed reactions on the Minnesota study’s effect in Wisconsin.

“It’s not terribly surprising, there’s a little bit of everything being put in the water,” said Don Johnson of Waunakee, who was testing his boat’s motor and noticed algae near the boat launch. “It was really bad the first time out this year.”

The costs of new testing were only worthwhile if the chemicals found in Minnesota proved harmful, said Ann Kiehl, who was on the lake for the first time this season.

“It depends on who it hurts,” Kiehl said. “How do we fix it if it is a problem?”