Ruptures in bridge floaters leads to Styrofoam pollution in a Richfield lake

A popular lake in Richfield is dealing with an unwanted change to the scenery. 

Styrofoam is leaking into the water. And residents want to know if it will be a threat to the environment and the habitat.

Surrounded by cattails, there is a bridge that spans hundreds of yards across Legion Lake connecting visitors in Veterans Memorial Park with a natural habitat flourishing with birds, fish, and other wildlife.

However Brigit Johnson says there is an unwanted neighbor invading the lake.

Styrofoam pellets are seeping from ruptures on several floaters that keep the bridges above the water.

“Why hasn't it been removed, replaced, or repaired?” Johnson said. “It's going to be a massive job cleaning it up.

Margaret Scheirman says she's concerned about the potential environmental impact.

“We all know Styrofoam does not decompose,” Scheirman said.   

Jim Topitzhofer leads Richfield Parks and Recreation and says the floaters have routine wear and tear, but says he doesn't know how many are actually leaking Styrofoam. 

“I'd be guessing,  I know we have replaced some, it's something I'm sorry I don't have that exact number,” he told Fox 9.

Aside from attempts to clean up the mess, Topitzhofer says he doesn't know when all the ruptured floaters will be replaced and even if the city knew it would become a maintenance problem.  

“They were purchased before I was here, so I don't know if I can answer if the city knew that or not.”

Most of the lake is currently frozen, with nothing on the surface moving, but the concern is once the ice starts to melt, the Styrofoam will start flowing into the rest of the habitat.

The Department of Natural Resources says they are concerned the pellets can be ingested by animals in the habitat. So far, they have not received any reports of animals dying in the area. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says it is now opening an investigation. 

“We wouldn't know if there was a threat to the environment, we would have to go out and look at that,” said Wayne Gjerde with the MPCA.

Johnson says she told the city almost two years ago and an email shows some officials acknowledged her concerns, even saying it would be sent to Jim Topizthofer. That's why she's wondering how it can still be a lingering problem.