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Proud of Minnesota's environment, speaker to reveal our messy history


SPICER -- Minnesotans take pride in protecting the environment.

Stephen Lee knows what it took to get us here.

Well into the early 1970s, the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities was a foul-smelling waterway devoid of fish with floating mats of sludge, bubbling gasses and a sludge-covered bottom several feet thick.

And, Minnesota was no stranger to the kinds of industrial accidents that started the Cuyahoga River on fire in Ohio and ignited the modern environmental movement. In December of 1962, the Richards Oil Company spilled 1 million gallons of oil into the Minnesota River at Savage. In January of 1963, a spill at the Honeymead Products Company in Mankato added nearly 3 million gallons of raw soybean oil. The gooey mixture that eventually formed downstream was blamed for killing over 10,000 ducks near Red Wing and Hastings and led Gov. Karl Rolvaag to call out the National Guard in a failed attempt to save them.

Lee will tell how these and other environmental tragedies from the past brought about the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the cleaner environment we appreciate today. Lee, an emergency response manager with a 34-year career at the MPCA, will be the featured speaker for this year's Earth Day celebration at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center west of Spicer.

Lee will offer his presentation featuring dramatic slides at 11 a.m. It will be followed by a discussion on the challenges ahead.

-- Tom Cherveny