"We value environmental stewardship, and mercury is a key component of our work in that arena," said Margaret Hodnik, Minnesota Power's vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs. The company will complete its mercury reduction plan in 2016 when it retrofits another power generator in Cohasset, Minn.
For the past decade, the state has tried to weed out mercury from consumer products like older thermostats, thermometers, automobiles and even dental fillings. Kohlasch said some of the state's taconite mines will try out new mercury reduction technologies later this year.
Despite the progress, the Minnesota Department of Health hasn't measured a significant decrease of mercury levels in fish.
"It's going to take time to get it out of the food chain," Stine said.
Much of the problem may be out of the state's control. About 90 percent of the mercury in Minnesota comes from outside the state, from natural sources like volcanoes or coal-powered plants across the nation and world, MPCA said.