Monday, December 23, 2013

Proper Flushing Fun Reading

Ode to the Toilet
and Proper Flushing
       Read as if you are telling 
”Twas the Night Before Christmas”

 It’s oh so convenient to have bathrooms galore
   For women, for men, for youth
close to the floor.
They’re in homes, businesses, and in our schools
   Without them we would be feeling sick and blue.

sn’t it okay  to put anything down drains near to us
   Down sinks, bathtubs, toilets,
and such?
No –we must keep some things out of the city sewer route
   For quite serious problems may   come about.

Miles of sewer runs ‘neath the ground.
Infrastructure assists the flow to flow ‘round.
Night and day, the treatment process should keep workin’ fine.
   When everyone sends only the right stuff – ev’ry time.

What can cause a stir and dreadful circumstance
   Is when things can’t make it to the treatment plant.
Instead they become stuck; should never’ve been flushed
   The message of "flushable" needs to be hushed.

Dental floss, hair, and
aquarium  gravel
   Down a drain – no! – it really does matter.
It can be expensive – and cause a big mess
   A clog, Yuck! an overflow!–generates much stress!

No rags, no wrappers or grease from cooking
   The process may become halted and require us to go looking.
To remedy the problem will cost more than a dime.
   It’s better to prevent problems and not take up time.

Cotton balls, swabs, toys and cigarettes
   Toss in the garbage, not the toilet?  U bet!
Flush this? What about that? Don’t be fooled
   The toilet's not a trashcan,
please remember that rule.

Each day millions of gallons head over to us.
    We clean it and send it to the lake with no fuss.
For treatment to run smoothly and water to be cleaned
    We need everyone to use the drains as should be.

Keep wipes and facial tissue out of the bowl
   Tell your whole family and others you know.
Now you’ve been reminded what's to not go down in the loo.
   Clean water that we depend on depends on you.

The toilet, the sewer, or the        septic tank
   May be in real danger from a little ol' prank.
It’s simple what we all need to do:
   Use drains properly all the year through.

Find disposal info on the
City website
   On what do to with meds, paint, oil, and the like.
We clean wastewater, we’re the other end of the pipe.
   Thanks for helping us keep things working right.

2013 – Wendy @ the Superior Wastewater Treatment Plant

Friday, December 20, 2013

Keep up the great work, Wisconsin!!

The DNR just released its 2013 report on the state’s electronics recycling law and looks like we are doing great! Since the 2010 electronic recycling law took effect, Wisconsin households and schools recycled 123 millions pounds of electronics. Our state still has one of the highest per capita collection totals (6.8 lbs/resident) among the 25 states with e-waste laws. Hooray!

The full report is found here.

If you are still unsure of where to recycle your e-waste, check these sites out:
City of Superior disposal
E-Cycle Wisconsin


Fun Event at Library Next Week!!

If you are looking for something fun to do with the little ones next Friday (Dec. 27), then we have just the thing. "Our water is in our hands" is a fun program about keeping our freshwater healthy and will include a puppet show, story, and activity. It will be held at the Superior Public Library at 1 pm.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Webinars next Thursday

Please join us for more webinars next Thursday (Dec. 19). There will be a webinar on recycling in morning at 10 am. Then at 1 pm there will be one on the streams of Superior.

Also, if you didn't get a chance to attend the previous webinars in the Environmental Matters series, they are all on YouTube and can be found through the city website.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Recycle your Holiday Lights - Superior idea

Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity wants your old holiday lights to recycle.  The green initiative will be accepting old, used, and defective holiday lights through January 8.  All proceeds raised go toward the organization's programs to assist low-income families throughout the area.  Lights can be dropped off at Habitat ReStore, 1621 Broad Way St. or at Campbell's Lumber in Superior, all Twin Ports area SuperOne Foods stores and Alco in Moose Lake.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pick up pet waste - new videos

Picking up after your pets is important to help our local water quality stay clean.

Here are recently released local videos with the local Animal Allies organization.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Closed on the 28th and 29. Happy Thanksgiving!

The office will be closed Thursday and Friday for the holiday.  Please be sure to keep the turkey grease out of the drain.  Enjoy the food with family and friends. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sewer Overflows are a Mess - Don't Put Extra Stuff in the Toilet

Some Things
Don't Belong
in the Toilet

We want to make sure our community is aware that disposable does not mean flushable.  It is best to keep items all items beyond toilet paper and you know what out of the toilet.  Hair, toys, candy wrappers, rags, baby wipes, kitty litter, rubber items like latex gloves, cigarette butts and disposable toilet brushes should not be flushed.  Send those items to the trash can. 

It may seem like these items would not cause a problem.  However, clogs can and do happen.  Then it can be an unfortunate mess coming up from your toilet bowl - beyond what a plunger can mend.
We don't want problems further down the line either - which again can be expensive and a hassle.  Even if you are not on city sewer and have a septic service the items should still not be flushed.
Homeowners are responsible for their property's sewer pipes.  Improper flushing can lead to an extra bill for you to pay and you probably don't want that.  

A reminder too that household hazardous waste and medicines should also not be flushed.  Unwanted medicines should be brought to the Superior Police Station which has a medicine dropbox.  Medicines that comes through the sewer line to the wastewater treatment plant is not necessarily removed and can then go right out the Superior Bay - which is where our drinking water also comes from.  Measurable amounts of medicines have been found in streams and the Great Lakes.
Drugs in water   And, there are many examples of this!

Household hazardous waste should be brought to WLSSD in Duluth at 27th Ave W. and the waterfront. Their contact information is (218)722-0761.  Just because something is liquid doesn't mean it should go down a drain.  Some toxic chemicals can create a problem with the treatment process.   Many of the household hazardous waste items (HHW) can actually be recycled or, the Product Reuse Center at WLSSD is a great way to let someone else use the product, such as leftover paint.   We can all look for and use safe alternatives to products, like making your own non-toxic cleaners.
Thanks for helping to keep the sewer system working fine.  Treating wastewater is what we do and we need your help to not disrupt the good bacteria that are the workers helping to clean the water before we release it into the bay.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

World Toilet Day

Did you know that today is World Toilet Day?  This holiday was created to bring awareness to the fact that billions of people do not have access to clean water and proper sanitation.  This leads to illness, death, and less education for women. Let the toilet below explain.

While we're lucky enough to have an abundance of clean water and the technology to clean our wastewater, we shouldn't be complacent.  We need to ensure that we have clean water far into the future, so make use of our water saving tips here or watch our webinar about it here.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Monday, November 18, 2013

Recycling - Reducing and Reusing

Thanks to those who attended the Recycling program last Thursday evening.  It was good to have a full room and lots of questions for the local experts presenting about recycling.  The more each of us knows then we can more properly dispose of items.  Many things can be recycled these days - used oil, household hazardous waste,  mercury-containing items,  plastics, metals, and paper.  The amount of recycling is going up.  Meanwhile, it's good to have REDUCE and REUSE be part of everyone's vocabulary and actions.  Can we use our own -re-usable bags?  Can we put usable unwanted items at places like the Superior Re-Use Center at the Superior Landfill or at the Re-Store Habitat for Humanity Store or Goodwill?   Toys, clothes, kitchen accessories and many other items might be just what someone else is looking for.    Paint, stains, and other household hazardous waste can be dropped off at no charge at WLSSD's ReUse Center.  It's also a place people can go to pick up things for free.
Remember some items are banned from the landfill.  Stop in here for accessing information about our landfill.  Here is our disposal guide.  People in Douglas Co. can learn more about recycling from the Douglas Co. Recycling Coordinator. 
  One of the largest man-made structures in the world is the Fresh Kills Landfill on the East Coast.  It's closed now and other landfills have closed and all have limited life spans.  The Superior Municipal Landfill with its five cells extends high up as more and more trash is added from Superior, from Duluth, from Ashland and other sites.

A recent article in the Duluth News Tribune summarized a study through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.   This is a summary report of the study.  Page 9 is especially interesting as it's the breakdown of the categories.

Go to some of the links provided to keep learning about proper disposal of waste and all the opportunities with recycling.  The final links I'd like to share are two sites that let you search on topics about recycling and where some items can be recycled.

If you would like help raise money through recycling for groups in town keep an ear out.  An aluminum can drop-off cage is along Belknap by Subway.  The high school has a glossy paper pickup. Perhaps people can start their own fundraising through recycling.  There also is a clothing and shoe US Again green bin near the corner of Belknap and Hill.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Let's Talk Recycling - Nov 14 at 6 p.m.

What:  Let’s Talk Recycling

When: November 14 (Thursday) at 6 p.m.

Where: Superior Public Library, classroom, 1530 Tower Ave.

More Information:  Environmental Services of City of Superior.  715-394-0392

Come over on November 14 at 6 p.m. at the Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Ave, to attend the event:  Let’s Talk Recycling.  We’ll talk plastics, paper, but also other items that have been considered ‘waste’ but are recyclable and some that can be an environmental health issue if placed in the trash.   Speakers will include Mary Klun, Douglas County Recycling Coordinator; Steve Christen “The Recycle Guy” AA Roll-off; Dan Hartel, Hartel’s DBJ; and Wendy Grethen, City of Superior Environmental Services.   Each presenter will give a short presentation and then there will be time for questions.  About 167,962 tons of waste came in to the Superior Municipal Landfill in the last year.  Quite a bit of the content could have been recycled and some items could have been reused.  Good news is that 875 mattresses were recycled and 68.5 tons of tires were recycled.  Our decisions as consumers and our waste disposal habits can result in part of the problem but also in creating a solution to reducing waste. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Office Closed Monday November 11

Reminder: Our offices are closed Monday, November 11 for Veteran's Day.  If you notice stormwater pollution or an illicit discharge, you can call the stormwater hotline at 715-394-2761 and we will respond when we return on Tuesday, November 12.  In the meantime, if you're looking for a learning opportunity, look around the blog and website or visit one of our displays at the Mariner Mall or Blaine Business Center (by the Center for Muscle and Joint Therapy entrance).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure

Image via Ryan Somma
It’s getting a little gray and dreary out there right now, so it seems like a good time to talk about green things!  Green infrastructure, for example.  Green infrastructure uses natural processes to manage stormwater in cities (US EPA).  Low impact development refers to using green infrastructure techniques on new land developments and redevelopments.  The EPA has a comprehensive website about green infrastructure with information about techniques, benefits, and resources located at
Some techniques that you can employ to manage stormwater on site as a homeowner are things that we’ve mentioned several times in the past.  One simple example is downspout redirection.  All this entails is redirecting your roof’s downspout from draining onto impervious area to draining into a rain barrel or pervious area (i.e. your yard).  When you redirect into a rain barrel, you can store the water for use later.  Rain barrel water is good for plants and doesn’t cost you anything.  Rain barrels are fairly simple to make or can be purchased when the City or WLSSD has a sale.  Learn more about rain barrels here (webinar), here, and here.
Redirecting your downspout into a pervious area (your yard) instead of letting it flow down your driveway and into the storm sewer is a good option if rain barrels aren’t allowed in your area or you don’t want to make/purchase one.  This allows the water to soak in rather than run off. 
Rain gardens are also known as bioretention cells and are a good way to put the rain to a good, aesthetically pleasing use.  Rain gardens are built into shallow depressions.  If you’re thinking about building one in your yard, look at where water pools naturally when it rains.  That would be a good spot for a rain garden.  You should use native plants because they are hardier and cost less to maintain.  They also provide food and habitat for native insect and animal species.  Learn more here, here, here (webinar) and here.
Green roofs (like the one that can be seen in the picture above or here at UW Superior’s Yellowjacket Union) are an option for homeowners, too.   Green roofs are a layer of vegetation over a waterproofed roof.  Green roofs are typically used on roofs that don’t have much of a slope and the plant/water weight must be considered before installation.  For more information, go here and here.
Many other LID and green infrastructure techniques are used on a neighborhood or city-wide basis rather than by individual homeowners.  Examples of techniques used include: vegetated swales, smaller sidewalks, narrower roads, pervious pavement (although you can do this at home too!), and natural feature protection.

There is a lot of information about green infrastructure and low impact development; look around and see what kinds of techniques you could use.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Very Scary Substance

There’s a scary substance lurking around in the environment.  It’s in the air, water, animals, products we use every day and even in people. It builds up in fish and can ruin their health, too!  When you eat fish with a lot of it in them, you end up with it in you too. It can make people sick and affect neurological development.  What is this eerie element?  It’s mercury, a creepy chemical that’s all around.
Mercury is an element that is liquid at room temperature and evaporates easily.  It occurs naturally, but is most often released into the air through the burning of coal.  It is also used in products like thermostats, thermometers, and switches (like the ones that turn your trunk and hood lights on in your car).  Mercury-containing products are hazardous and should not be thrown in with your regular trash.  You can prevent mercury in the environment by buying products that don’t contain mercury, disposing of mercury-containing items correctly, and becoming more energy efficient.  Watch our webinar below for information on reducing the number of mercury containing items in your life and proper disposal.  You can also tune in for our “Universal Waste Rules for Mercury” webinar on November 13th.  Mercury-containing products can be brought to the wastewater treatment plant (51 E 1st Street) free of charge.  You’ll even receive a mercury-free thermostat.
"Mercury and You" webinar from October 8, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Webinars - by us and others

We have just a few more webinars in our Businesses Preventing Pollution series.  One is Wednesday Oct 30 at 9:30 a.m. on automotive industry waste management.   The others in the series are on Rules about Mercury and Harvesting Rainwater.  See the schedule at

Our Environmental Matters webinar series will offer you a tour of the Wastewater Treatment Process on Nov 12 at noon and a look at what Environmental Outreach Activities we have done throughout the year on Nov 26.

A series on Green Chemistry has begun.  The programs are Tuesdays at 1 p.m.

Upcoming Six Classes Webinars:

November 5th, 11am PST: Flame Retardants (PBDEs, tris, Firemaster)

Arlene Blum, PhD, Visiting Scholar in Chemistry, UC Berkeley, Green Science Policy Institute

November 12th, 11am PST: Plasticizers and Endocrine Disruptors (BPA, phthalates)

Carol Kwiatkowski, PhD, Executive Director, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc.

November 19th, 11am PST: Solvents (toluene, xylene, acetone, etc.)

Liz Harriman, Deputy Director, Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute

November 26th, 11am PST: Heavy Metals (arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, etc.)

Graham Peaslee, PhD, Hartgerink Professor of Chemistry, Hope University

December 3rd, 11am PST: Do We Need It?

Debbie Raphael, Director, California Department of Toxic Substance Control

December 10th, 11am PST: Green Chemistry

Bob Peoples, PhD, Former Director of ACS Green Chemistry Institute

-Posted by Wendy

Thursday, October 24, 2013

BIDtoberfest Pumpkin Patch

Stop by the BID Pumpkin Patch this Saturday (October 26) between 10 AM and 2 PM!  We will be at City Center Park by the Superior Public Library.  We'll have a booth with candy for the trick or treaters and our favorite canine mascot, Rex, will be there to remind everyone to scoop the poop!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Clean Water - clean waterways depend on community efforts - Come chat on Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.

The final chat in our 3 part series - Bites on Clean Water - will be on Thursday, October 24 at Big Apple Bagels, 1224 Belknap.  The topic of discussion is how do activities in the community impact our local streams, rivers, and Lake Superior.  Not everyone makes it to the shores of a stream or Lake Superior everyday but with the over 2000 storm drains in our area we are all standing on the shore of streams and lakes via the nearby storm drains carrying materials moved by stormwater runoff down the drain.    What is on our lawns and public spaces can be carried down a storm drain - pet waste, litter, plant debris and other items.  Thanks for helping keep places clean.  Stop in for the discussion Thursday morning.  We'll supply free bagel bites.   You don't need to have attended any of the previous discussions to attend this one. 

-Posted by Wendy Grethen

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Illicit Discharge

It sounds a little scary, doesn't it? Illicit discharge IS scary, making it the perfect topic to cover leading up to Halloween.  We're also working on illicit discharge sampling right now so I'm thinking about it pretty often.  Illicit discharges are discharges into the stormwater conveyance system that are not composed entirely of stormwater.  They often contain sediment, nutrients, bacteria and toxic pollutants.  In other words, illicit discharge is anything flowing through storm sewers that isn't rain.
So what makes up illicit discharges? A lot of different things can be illicit discharges. Sanitary wastewater (sewage) can end up in the storm sewer system through cross-connections: when a sanitary sewer is connected to the storm system.  Leaking oil and other fluids from vehicles parked outside can end up in storm drains.  When you wash your vehicle in the driveway, the wash water can go down the storm drain. Grease containers stored outside of restaurants can tip over and spill. Soil can be washed off of construction sites.  There is a list of potential illicit discharges on our website here.
We find illicit discharges in a few different ways.  The first is, as I mentioned previously, sampling.  We determine if there are illicit discharges in our storm sewers by sampling during dry weather.  When it's dry, nothing should be flowing through the storm sewers. We visit the stormwater outfalls (where the water leaves the sewers and enters streams, rivers, and the lake) when it's dry to see if there's anything coming out.  If there is, we take a sample and find out what's in it.  Once we know how much ammonia, potassium, fluoride, and detergent is in the sample, we can determine what kind of discharge it is.  Sometimes, it is tap water or a natural water source.  Other times, it is sanitary wastewater.  When we've figured that out, we try to figure out where it is coming from and eliminate the source.  We don't want illicit discharges because most storm drains in Superior don't lead to the wastewater treatment plant; they go out into the streams, rivers, and lakes without treatment.  We need to make sure the stormwater is as clean as possible so that we're not polluting our water bodies.
The other way that we find illicit discharges is with the help of everyone in Superior. We have an illicit discharge reporting form on our website at We also have a hotline that anyone can call at any time to let us know about potential stormwater pollution: 715-394-2761. If you see someone's car leaking, piles of pet waste concentrated in one area, litter covering a storm drain, or anything else you think could cause stormwater pollution, err on the side of caution.  Give us a call and we'll look into it! We need everyone to help us out to eliminate illicit discharge.
 For further information about illicit discharge, you can watch the webinar Wendy presented recently here.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Friday, September 27, 2013

Several Community Science Talks this fall

1.  It's time to start mentioning our new talk series which is actually three chats that will be held at Big Apple Bagels in Superior.  Stop in for these Bites on Clean Water.

2.  Great Lakes Aquarium  - Science Institute for Educations 2013-2014  See schedule at   First one is Oct 15.

3. River Talks  Through WI Sea Grant.  See schedule at .

-Posted by Wendy

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SepticSmart Week

Did you know that this week is SepticSmart Week?  Neither did I, because this is its first year ever!  The EPA has designated September 23-27 SepticSmart Week to encourage people on a septic system to take care of it.  Almost 25% of Americans are on septic systems and as of 1990, 580,836 people in Wisconsin relied on septic systems.
Septic system care is important because backed up systems can lead to waste backing up into your home or coming up into your backyard.  It can also end up in your well or in surface waters nearby.  Obviously, sewage in your home, yard, and water source is a major health concern.  Diseases can be spread from the waste and other substances that you may have used around the home and flushed or dumped down the sink (household hazardous waste) can reemerge and poison wildlife and humans.  It is also very expensive to replace your septic system outright.  Septic systems, if properly maintained, should last 20-30 years. Check out EPA's SepticSmart poster below, then read more about why their tips are important.

The first tip is very important.  Have your system inspected regularly and have it pumped when necessary.  If you don't do this, you won't catch potential problems before they occur.
The second tip, think at the sink, is something we stress often.  Dumping fats, oils, and grease (FOGs) down the drain can clog your pipes and cause malfunctions in your system.  This will be expensive to you because you will need repairs and more frequent pumping.  If the fats, oils, and grease reach the wastewater treatment plant when your system is pumped, they can cause problems here as well. Learn more about fats, oils, and grease here.  Household chemicals should also never be poured down the drain or flushed.  If they end up in your septic system, they can destroy the organisms that treat your waste.  Household hazardous wastes (HHW) can also damage plumbing. HHW should never be flushed or dumped down the drain, whether or not you have a septic system. To learn more about disposing of household hazardous wastes, check out this flyer from WLSSD. 
"Don't overload the commode" is a great tip for everyone (just like not flushing FOGS and HHW).  Don't flush things that aren't specifically meant to go down the drain.  Even kleenex shouldn't be flushed; not only because it won't break down like toilet paper, but because flushing every time you want to dispose of a kleenex wastes water.  Other items that shouldn't be flushed are listed above.  Basically, if it's not toilet paper, it shouldn't be flushed, even if it says flushable on the package.
"Shield your field" is a pretty simple tip; don't do things that could harm your drainfield. 
Finally, "don't strain your drain", another tip that's good for everyone.  Be water efficient in your home and yard.  Don't use more water than you need and purchase water efficient appliances.  For more tips on becoming water efficient in your home and yard, view our webinar here.

So there you have it: plenty of tips to keep your septic system working well.  For more information about SepticSmart Week, visit the EPA's website.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Free Home

This posting isn't actually about a free home but about having your home be toxic free by using non-toxic cleaners that you can make yourself.  In celebration of National Pollution Prevention Week we are passing out spray bottles with recipes of window cleaner and an all-purpose cleaner.   It isn't that difficult to make these cleaners and they save money. 
Here are some links to an assortment of cleaners you can make  -

Another topic is to get rid of mercury in your home.  If you have an old thermostat you might want to upgrade.  Here at the wastewater treatment facility we accept those for free as well as fluorescent bulbs, thermometers, cell phones, and other items with mercury.  There are more restrictions for having mercury-containing products for sale but it doesn't mean some don't exist in homes. 
This website by has more information.

Proper disposal is key to many items that you might be ready to dispose of from your home.  Old-television and computers can be dropped off at the Superior Municipal landfill for a nominal fee or at local e-waste collectors.  Here is our disposal guide linked from our website.

I'd also hope you are working toward a yard free of chemicals, pet waste, and lawn clippings that can wash down a storm drain. 

Most of the changes we need to do save money.   Living "free" makes the environment healthier for you, for your family, and the community.

Posted by Wendy

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hey parents! Bring your kids to the Douglas County Youth Fair!

We'll be there with our super fun water wheel trivia game! We'll also have a door prize and information for you and your kids to take home!  See you there!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thank you to local recyclers and health educators

Thank you to the presenters last night who spoke at our Pollution Prevention Speaker Night at the Superior Public Library:
Bonnie Beste (City of Superior Community Policing Officer),
George Winston (owner of Afterlife Electronics Graveyard - ewaste recycler/collection site in Superior),
Vicki Drake (public health educator and chair of the NW Wisconsin Lead Free Task Force) and
Dr. Emily Onello (faculty member of UMD Medical School and physician at Lake Superior Community Health Center).

Each shared their knowledge and provided local information and numbers of tons of medical waste coming in, tons of recycling of materials from televisions, and information on issues relating to lead exposure and exposure to minute particulates in air.

Their presentations were recorded and will be put up on Superior Community Television. 

Posted by Wendy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Pollution Prevention Week is September 15 -21 this year.  I think it’s safe to say most people don’t pollute on purpose.  It’s pretty obvious when someone throws litter out their car window or doesn’t pick up their dog’s poo while on a walk.  Most of us are still polluting, often without even realizing it.  We’ve posted about plastic pollution and household chemicals previously, but many people don’t know that some of the products you’re purposely applying to your body every single day can be polluting and harmful to your health.  Like pharmaceuticals, many personal care products may not be removed during the wastewater treatment process.  All of that soap, lotion, makeup, and toothpaste that washes down the sink and shower drain ends up in our environment….along with everyone else’s.  While we’re focusing on green cleaning products for pollution prevention week, it seems obvious to also try greening the products that go right on our skin; not just for the environment’s sake, but for your health as well.
The FDA doesn’t require cosmetic and personal care product companies to test their ingredients for safety or have their products approved except for color additives (source).  If a product is considered a “drug” as well (for example, some dandruff shampoos) requirements are more stringent.  So, while you may assume that all of the products on the shelf are tested and safe for your health and the environment, this is not necessarily the truth. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market in the US, most of which haven’t been tested (source)   Knowledge is power, so here are some components in cosmetics and personal care products that you might want to know a bit more about…

Phthalates (DBP, DEP, DEHP, BzBP, DMP): found in nail polish, deodorant, perfume/cologne, aftershave, shampoo, hair gel, hand lotion, insect repellent, plastics.  Phthalates are endocrine disrupters, chemicals that mimic hormones and cause reproductive system problems. 

Isopropyl Alcohol: used in hair color rinses, hand lotion, and aftershave.  Can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

Petrochemicals (phthalates, parabens, fragrance, sodium laureth, lauryl sulfate, oxybenzone): Found in shampoos, soaps, conditioners, sunscreens, lotions (and pretty much everything else).  These chemicals can lead to problems with sexual development, cancer, organ toxicity, skin and eye irritation, etc. 

Diethanolamine, Monoethanolamine, Triethanolamine: Found in shampoos, soaps, and facial cleansers.  They are hormone-disrupters and may lead to liver and kidney cancer.

Propylene glycol: Found in makeup, toothpaste, and deodorant.  Can cause brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities (

Triclosan: Found in antibacterial soaps and toothpaste.  Can lead to cancer, lowered fertility, birth defects, paralysis, and heart broblems.

So what can you do to avoid these chemicals?  Don’t assume that because a product says “organic” or “natural” on the label it is safe.  Read the labels and look up your favorite products to see if they have these ingredients or other dangerous components.  There are some great resources online with information about product safety, the frontrunner being the Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep Database (see here).  Organic Consumers Association also has information about different brands here.  So, in honor of preventing pollution, take the time to think about what your personal care products and cosmetics could be doing to your health and the health of our waters.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pollution Prevention Night - Sept 17 (Tues) at the Superior Public Library

 Sept 17 Program on Pollution Prevention

Come to Pollution Prevention Speaker Night on Tuesday, September 17 starting at 6 p.m. at the Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Ave.  Guest speakers, displays, and a short game will be part of the evening’s program on pollution prevention.  Information on proper disposal of household hazardous waste, lead and children, e-waste, environmental and human health connection, and more will be part of the evening’s program. National Pollution Prevention Week is September 15-21.   Helping keep water and air clean has benefits for wildlife and for humans.  Preventing pollution can save money and unhealthy consequences. Doing activities such as fixing leaks in your car, not putting medicines down your toilet, properly disposing of household hazardous waste, and reducing use of items containing toxic materials can help reduce pollution in the environment.  The speaker night is free and open to the public.   Come learn how you can reduce pollution in our community.

 For more information, contact city of Superior Environmental Services Division at 715/394-0392. 
Posted by Wendy

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to School tips from the WI DNR

Environmental tips can come from many different organizations, and city, state, and federal agencies.  Here are some good tips for this time of year with all the back to school activities going on.

Reduce, reuse and recycle during back to school shopping and moving

Weekly News article published: August 27, 2013 by the Central Office

MADISON – As summer winds down, many families have already started their back-to-school shopping or are moving their college-aged kids to a new city or apartment. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recycling specialists have extra tips to help you reduce, reuse and recycle more and throw away less.

“We know it’s a busy time for students and their families,” said DNR Recycling Outreach Coordinator Elisabeth Olson. “But with just a little planning, you can reduce waste and save money.”

Olson said the DNR’s back-to-school suggestions include:

  • reuse paper, folders, backpacks and calculators from last year when you can; if purchasing new supplies, look for those made from recycled content, and those that use minimal packaging;
  • use reusable food and beverage containers for school lunches;
  • donate or recycle clothes and supplies that are still in good, usable condition;
  • recycle old electronics; E-Cycle Wisconsin, a DNR program, makes recycling electronics easier by providing a list of collection locations across the state for items like computers, printers, cell phones and more; and
  • talk to your children about the importance of waste reduction and recycling, and to their teachers about teaching and using recycling principles in the classroom. For potential recycling activities, see the agency’s EEK!—Environmental Education for Kids! website.
  • Moving suggestions include:
  • develop a plan to pack and organize what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of; having a moving plan will give you more time to think about what to throw away or donate, what to reuse and what to recycle;
  • reuse boxes, cloth bags or plastic containers from move to move and use reusable or recyclable materials – like newspaper and T-shirts – to package fragile items; and
  • donate or recycle old electronics, furniture and other household items. Check with your local recycling program to see if they have a special recycling or reuse collection event to make it easier to reuse and recycle.

More information and ideas are available by searching the DNR website for Recycling for all Seasons.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Elisabeth Olson, 608-264-9258

-posted by Wendy

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Long Weekend Friday!

It's finally here! The long awaited Friday of a three day weekend! Our offices will be closed Monday, September 2nd for the Labor Day holiday.  As always, if you have a stormwater concern, you can call the stormwater hotline at 715-394-2761 or visit the illicit discharge reporting form here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Upcoming Webinars

The Environmental Matters webinar series continues.  All our previous topics are archived.  Join in tomorrow Tuesday Aug 27 at noon to learn about the Importance of Wetlands in Superior with guest speaker Darienne McNamara with the City of Superior Special Areas Management Plan.

Sept 10 Organic Yard Care
Sept 24 Climate Change  Guest: Hilarie Sorensen, MN Sea Grant
Oct 8  Mercury and Environmental Health
Oct 22 Protecting local waters  Guest: Julene Boe, St. Louis River Alliance

Register and see the schedule at

The Businesses Preventing Pollution Series has also begun.  See the schedule for that series at   Sept 4 will be the topic Dental Mercury Management at 9:30 a.m.

We hope you will attend.  The webinars run about one half hour.

-Posted by Wendy

Monday, August 19, 2013

Help stencil storm drains Tues Aug 20 at 6 p.m.

Marking storm drains in Superior with the message - Do Not Dump Drains to Stream - helps remind people to not dump anything down storm drains.  For most storm drains in Superior the contents of the pipes go directly to a stream and do not go to the Wastewater Treatment Plant.    We will supply the paint and stencil and if you could help for one hour starting at 6 p.m. at Carl Gallo Park, 510 26th Ave. E. we would like to mark about 30 drains in the vicinity.  Please RSVP by 4 p.m. on Tuesday if you plan on attending. 715/394-0392.  The day temperature is listed as 90 degrees but maybe in the evening it will be cooler. We are getting a bit of hot summer here at the end of summer.  Maybe a swim would be a good thing today after helping.

We'd appreciate your help and your connection to preventing pollution in Lake Superior.  Every time it rains other materials such as pet waste, lawn fertilizers, and litter can also be carried over to a drain and head down it.  Helping mark drains, picking up pet waste, keeping storm drains clear, fixing leaks in your car - these are just some of the many ways to help make a difference.  Thank you.

Posted by Wendy

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A better approach to washing cars

Wash and water tend to go together.   Our vehicles get dirty and when it comes time that we want to clean it up many of us pull out our hose and soap to make our car shine.  An important reminder regarding washing a car is that the soap and water will flow down the nearest storm drain.  In Superior most of the drains go directly out to a stream or lake.  That means soap goes to our streams or lakes.  

What can you do?  Wash your car on your lawn rather than on the pavement will make a big difference in how much soapy water would enter a nearby stream or Lake Superior. 

A friend of mine mentioned a product that she came across promoting a way to wash your car without water.  I looked on the internet and there are several products available.

Eco Touch is one of the waterless car wash products.  You basically spray it on and wipe it off, like a window spray. 
In this case you are using essentially no water (conserving water) and not creating polluted runoff.
If you still think water needs to be part of washing a car a great option is to go to a local car wash.  Their drains are setup to clean the water.  The high-pressure water gives your car a good cleaning and your car will shine - at least for awhile until dirt, bugs, or bird droppings 'adorn' your car once again.
Cars also can be a source of pollution to water via leaks.  Keep your car maintained.  No one wants to see either the rainbow from soap or the rainbow from oil heading to a storm drain.  Let's keep the rainbow in the sky only.  
Posted by Wendy

Monday, August 12, 2013

Shoreline and Streambank Management

Today I wanted to write about a topic that doesn't necessarily apply to everyone, but is just as important as other, more widely applicable topics.  Shoreline and streambank management aren't endeavors you can undertake if you don't live on a stream/river or coast.  However, it is still important for you to know about these things so that if you see, say, an unmanicured beach area, you know why it is important that we allow native plants to grow along the water rather than grooming beaches and shoreline areas. 

What is it?  Shoreline and streambank management use a variety strategies to keep shorelines and streambanks stable. Some of these practices include: restoring native vegetation, live staking, brush layering, and many more.  

Why do we need it? Developed shorelines and streambanks, or those without native vegetation, can contribute to a lot of problems. 

Erosion: When shorelines are developed or native plants are cleared so grass lawns give way to sandy beaches, there is an increased risk of erosion.  Usually, soil is held in place by plants and their roots.  Plants also “intercept” rain, meaning that rain hits the plants and is either absorbed or slowed down before it hits the soil.  This prevents erosion because the impact of the rain is decreased when it hits a plant first.  Waves, ice, and surface runoff have more of an impact when native vegetation is removed.

Flooding:  As native vegetation and coastal wetlands are filled, the potential for flooding increases.  Coastal wetlands “absorb” water and store it in, preventing flooding to areas further upland.  Without these natural sponges, there’s nothing to stop this water from flooding upland.  Development can also contribute to flooding through impervious area increases.  Impervious surfaces are those into which water can’t be absorbed, or infiltrate.  Roofs, driveways, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots are all examples of impervious areas.  When it rains on impervious surfaces, this water “runs off” into lakes and streams rather than soaking into the soil.

Water quality: If a lot of erosion is occurring on a shoreline/streambank, all of that sand or soil is going into the water.  Too much sediment in the water is bad for aquatic life.  Also, if you are fertilizing or using pesticides on your lawn and garden right on the water’s edge, those substances could end up in the water.  
Excess nutrients from fertilizers can lead to algal blooms.

These issues don’t just impact the water and the environment.  They can cause problems for you as well.  It’s not great for your home if the ground beneath it is eroding away or if it is regularly flooding.  Ugly algal blooms probably aren’t what you want to see out your windows, either.

What can you do to protect your shoreline/streambank?  Don’t remove native vegetation if you have it.  Make sure you know what species are native and which are invasive.  If you have invasive species, find out the most effective ways to eradicate them.  If you don’t have any native vegetation and have a lawn going to the edge of the water, you should stop mowing the lawn by the water.  Plant native plants in these areas.  Native plants are great because many of them are just as beautiful as non-native ornamental plants, they are often drought resistant, and they attract birds and other wildlife. There are other strategies for streambank/shoreline management, so see the links below for more information.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards