Thursday, February 28, 2013

St. Louis River Estuary Summit

This week, some of us from ESD attended the St. Louis River Estuary Summit, hosted by the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR).  It was a great opportunity to learn about the research people are doing in and around the St. Louis River Estuary and best of all, it was free and open to everyone!
There were a lot of interesting presentations at the Summit, but I think my personal favorite was given by the students from South Shore School District in Port Wing.  The students presented the monitoring work that they were doing as a part of their aquatic biology course.  I was pretty amazed at all the great things they were working on.  It was really inspiring to see how well-informed they are as high school students.  Another great thing I learned from that portion of the program was the work that LSNERR is doing with teachers.  The education coordinator, Deanna Erickson, took teachers on a field trip over the summer and they learned about many aspects of the St. Louis River.  It is a great opportunity for teachers to get their students actively involved with the outdoors. Click here to see more on the LSNERR site.
There were so many interesting presentations.  As a relative newcomer to the area, I felt as though I learned a lot about the history of the area and some water quality challenges that are dealt with here.  I'm sure even people who are involved with some of the research found it extremely beneficial and informative.  So, plan ahead to attend the summit next year!  You'll be amazed at the amount of research and collaboration that's happening in your own backyard!

Thanks to Lake Superior NERR for putting on such a great program!

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Living Downstream: Local Events of Interest

Are you sick and tired of winter?  If you're anything like me, you've spent winter in hibernation mode at home.  However, now is the time to get out and attend some great educational events!  UMD is hosting Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist and cancer survivor.  She is a highly acclaimed author and travels the world informing people on the connections between environmental toxins and cancer. 
UMD is showing her film "Living Downstream", an adaptation of her book that details her journey to educate about human health and the environment.  Dr. Steingraber will also be the Women's History Month/World Water Day Keynote Speaker.  Her talk will be entitled "Living Downstream: The Impact of Chemical Exposure on Human Health". 

Dr. Steingraber's topic is near and dear to us as we encourage everyone to be mindful of what goes into the water through the storm and sanitary sewers.  Chemicals are everywhere around us and some can have pretty awful impacts on our health.  So, if you have some free time coming up, check out one of the following events at UMD:

Film Screening: Living Downstream- Monday, February 25th 7 PM in Bohannon 90

Women's History Month Keynote- Monday, March 4th 7 PM in Chem 200

If you're interested in Dr. Steingraber's information and you can't make it to the events, several of her books are available through the Merlin Library System.  "Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment" is available at the Superior Public Library. 

For more information, click here for Dr. Steingraber's website. 

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bring It, Bag It, Dispose of It - or Get a Helper

This posting is about pet waste.  Most people enjoy going on walks with their dogs.  Really, most dogs love going on walks with their owners/family.  When heading out on walk, be sure to BRING IT - that is, bring bags along for picking up waste.  Bags are easy to tuck into a pocket or now leashes or collars are available with a little bag dispenser built in.  In Superior, there are five Mutt Mitt dispensers in more highly used park areas.  The Mutt Mitts are bio-degradable and come with a thicker area to be the glove part.   The second thing to remember when on your walk is to BAG IT.  You brought a bag now use it after you spot your dog doing its duty.  If you don't pick up, it more likely to be trampled by someone else and when the next rain or snow melt conditions come along the waste may travel down to the nearest storm drain and travel untreated out to a nearby stream or lake.
The next step is to DISPOSE OF IT.  After you have picked it up with a bag, be sure to carry it to the next garbage can.  Over the weekend I went walking with my husband on the Lakewalk in Duluth and saw several dumped bags with pet waste in them.  Not good.  Please make sure you dispose of the bags properly.  
The fourth item in the title of this blog is GET A HELPER.  If you have a fenced yard and don't have time to do waste pickup in your yard or need some assistance, you can call on a new local business.  Duluth Dog Waste Removal.  The service offers weekly, bi-weekly or monthly cleanups of your yard.  Here is the contact information.
Charlie Bray
Duluth Dog Waste Removal

A day's waste from one large dog can contain 7.8 billion fecal coliform bacteria. 
 Waste doesn't stay where it was deposited so picking it up with a bag or scooper and putting it in the trash.  Thank you for taking steps for a cleaner environment.  Maybe reward yourself with a nice walk on a sunny day.

Posted by Wendy

Friday, February 15, 2013

Where is our Water Going?

Information about water withdrawals-when someone takes surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.) or groundwater (aquifers, wells) and uses it so it is no longer available for others- in Wisconsin for 2011 is now posted to the DNR website.  Even if you’re not someone who gets excited about water information regularly, it is pretty interesting. 

The report breaks down the withdrawals by sector, by month, and by source.  1.9 TRILLION gallons of surface water were withdrawn in 2011, while 213 billion gallons of groundwater were withdrawn (that's a lot of water!).  Power generation was the biggest user of surface water (84.6% of withdrawals).  Water is used in power generation to cool down equipment.  It was interesting to me that another use that came up was cranberry production at 2.2% of surface water.  I had no idea Wisconsin had such a large cranberry industry (see more information here).  It is especially exciting that Wisconsin cranberry growers and the NRCS have been working to conserve water; it would be great to see their percentage and the total amount of water withdrawals decrease! Municipal water suppliers and paper producers took more surface water than cranberry growers, but that was not nearly as surprising to me.

As for groundwater, municipal water supplies were the biggest withdrawal with 42%.  Agricultural irrigation also accounted for a large chunk of withdrawals.

The report details the basin where the water withdrawals came from as well….Lake Michigan's basin had the most withdrawals by far, with the Mississippi River basin coming in second.  Lake Superior basin withdrawals were actually very, very small in comparison.  However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t conserve water up here in Superior! With the Great Lakes at low levels (Lake Michigan and Huron are at all-time lows), now is a great time to think about water conservation.  We did a post previously (see here) with some tips about water conservation.  As we near gardening season, consider purchasing a rain barrel either from our pre-order sale or WLSSD/RSPT’s truckload sale.  March 18th- 24th is Fix a Leak Week; go through your home and repair leaks that waste water and cost you money.  Having a huge lake just outside our doors should only make us want to conserve water more. 


Check out the DNR report here.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Battery and Cell Phone Recycling a Success


I received an e-mail yesterday morning about the past year's success of the Call2Recycle program.  I was excited to see this, mostly because I recognized the name and logo from a box in our building.  If you've never heard of Call2Recycle, here's a brief overview.  Call2Recycle is a free rechargeable and cell phone recycling program serving North America.  It is funded by manufacturers of these products, but is a non-profit organization. 
The good news from Call2Recycle is that battery collections have increased 16% from 2011.  Ten million pounds of batteries were collected in 2012 (see the original news release here).  The good news for Superior residents is that there are many collection sites in our area.  If you're looking for a recycling location, check out their map here.  When you reach the end of your cell phone's life, don't throw it in the trash (it's illegal!), take it to one of the Call2Recycle locations in Superior.   

Call2Recycle Website

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Reminder: Smart Salting for Homeowners Webinar TODAY

Don't forget: The first webinar in the Environmental Matters Webinar Series is TODAY at 2:00 PM!  Register to participate at:
Remember, every City of Superior resident who attends a webinar prior to June will be entered in a drawing to win a rain barrel.  Every webinar you participate in will earn you another entry.
-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Monday, February 11, 2013

A little bit of this, A little bit of that….

…is what we’ve been working on over here in the Environmental Services Division.  I just wanted to update everyone on what’s been going on so far this year.  Stormwater utility bills were mailed the last week of January, along with the stormwater newsletter (available here).  We had a booth at the Senior Connections/Mariner Mall Health Fair and talked to a lot of people there.  We enjoyed meeting everyone who attended, as well as those staffing the other booths.  We’ll be keeping you posted on events we attend….in March, we have the Housing Expo at Mariner Mall on the 9th.

Hopefully you’ve heard of the Environmental Matters Webinar Series which kicks off tomorrow with our first webinar presented by Wendy on winter salt (register here).  She’ll be covering salt application, types of salt, and the problems with salt use on the roads.  It’s interesting information that is useful to all of us, especially after all the snow we got yesterday!  We’ll have another webinar on the 28th, and then two more every month throughout 2013.  All Superior residents who watch the webinars live will have a chance to win a rain barrel in June!  If you can’t watch them live, they will be archived on our website.  Check out the Superior Telegram's article about them here.

Another fun thing that we’re doing right now is working with schools and other groups to set up presentations about stormwater, water pollution, and the water cycle with kids.  We met some smart kids who knew a lot about water at the Boys and Girls Club and had fun doing activities with them.  In March, we’re holding a Water Fair for the fifth graders at two local elementary schools.  We’re also organizing an art contest for fifth and sixth grade students that will conclude just in time for Earth Day in April.

Finally, we’re in the midst of planning a Rain Barrel and Composter Sale with UW Superior.  In the past, the City has made rain barrels available for residents in a pre-order sale.  We’re working on bringing that back this year, and we couldn’t be more excited.  We’ll have more information at our upcoming booths and eventually, on this blog and the website. 

If you have a question or would like a presentation on stormwater or a related topic for a group in Superior, please contact us.  We’d love to work with you!

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Monday, February 4, 2013

Books & Movies

Opportunities to learn more about our environment are everywhere.  Numerous internet and social media avenues abound.  Sometimes I like the more traditional ways of learning  - reading books, asking questions, keeping track of my behaviors, attending talks or network events, and attending video documentary showings.

I just finished the book Garbage Land: The Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte.
  Front Cover
In the book, she monitors her own trash production and follow where trash and recyclables end up.  It's great to see some of the forward steps of places in terms of recycling and responsible disposal helping to keep waterways more clean than in the past.  Meanwhile, efforts continue to handle the continual flow and quantity of unwanted materials from food waste to e-waste and plastics. 
Speaking of plastics, last week in Duluth the movie Bag It was shown.  The showing was organized by UMD stores which is experimenting with a day a week or a whole month being bag-free.  Reusable bags are inexpensive and readily available and the store does have some used plastic bags that customers can use.   Plastic is relatively cheap but the quantity that is heading to landfills after only a single and very short-term use, such as water bottles and shopping bags, is huge.  The movie presented how some cities are stepping forward and banning plastic bags or putting a small fee on using bags.  No one wants to see plastic bags in a river or suspended from a tree after the wind has moved it from the trash but that is what often happens.  
In Duluth, a Green Drinks group meets monthly on the 3rd Thursday of the month.  The place varies.  I haven't made it yet to this newer reformation of the group.  Chatting about possible solutions to issues can lead to positive change.  Small steps can lead to bigger steps.   Being informed can help us make better decisions.
I'll end with a short exercise that's actually from the kid's section of the Environmental Protection Agency.  What is wrong with the picture?  It is showing some preventable problems associated with stormwater run-off/pollution and water use.

Written by Wendy Grethen

Friday, February 1, 2013

Health & Wellness Expo at Mariner Mall on Saturday

Stop by our booth tomorrow at the Senior Connections and Mariner Mall Annual Community Healthy and Wellness Expo.  The Expo runs from 10 AM-3 PM inside Mariner Mall.  Stop in and see us to learn about some of the health-related problems with water pollution.  We look forward to seeing you there!
-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards