Friday, March 29, 2013

We're excited for....road construction?!

This morning, a local radio station was covering the upcoming construction for this season.  Most people dread "construction season", which seems to crop up while we're still recovering from the snowy, icy roads of winter.  One project we're pretty excited about, though, is the Tower Avenue reconstruction.  Excited for road construction? Crazy, right?  Let me explain.
We have a few different tabs on the top of our blog.  The "Water and the Environment in Superior" tab has a list of contacts for various environmental/water issues.  It also has a map that show some stormwater management practices around town.  These include rain gardens, green roofs, pervious pavement, etc.  What does this have to do with road construction?  Well, we're excited for the Tower Avenue project because we'll be able to add some new things to our map.  Along with the construction of the actual road, there will be tree trenches added along the road; tree trenches are "systems of trees connected by an underground filtration system" (Philadelphia Water Department). Tree trenches store water for the trees to use in the engineered soil.  They also slow and reduce runoff.  There will also be plants in the medians, which will reduce the amount of impervious area.  So, if you're sad about dealing with construction, just think of all the good things that will come along with it!  Check out the plans here:

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Where is our water going, revisited.

Awhile ago, I wrote a post about where our water is going (the major water withdrawals in Wisconsin).  However, recently, there have been multitudes of articles from all around the Great Lakes about low water levels and the challenges that they bring.
Lakes Michigan and Huron broke previous low water levels in January. Superior is currently just slightly under last year's average and about a foot under the long-term average (US Army Corps of Engineers).  In Michigan, coastal towns are facing huge economic losses due to shallower harbors and the need for additional dredging.  The Michigan legislature actually just approved $21 million in additional dredging funding last week.  So where is the water going and do we need to be concerned?
There are a lot of factors that impact lake levels.  Dredging channels out of the Great Lakes basin (like the St. Clair River) so that it is deep enough for large ships allows more water to flow out of the Great Lakes.  Obviously, rain and snowfall impacts the lake levels as well.  Evaporation is thought to be a major cause behind the current low lake levels (see a great article about it here).  Basically, with less ice on the lakes in the winter (we know that Lake Superior has lost over 70% of its ice since 1970), there is more evaporation.  There is less ice because the air and lakes are getting warmer. 

Should we be concerned about this?  Low lake levels are definitely a cause for concern, as citizens and businesses on Lakes Michigan and Huron are currently seeing.  Boats can't get into some harbors without dredging, leading to lost profits for the harbor and the community. Dredging itself has some issues, like stirring up contaminated sediment.  Also, large ships have to carry less cargo on each trip and make more trips, which costs more.  There are many other impacts of low lake levels as well.  You can stay informed about lake levels as well as other news from around the region with GLIN Daily NewsGreat Lakes Echo is also a great resource for Great Lakes news.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Flood Control Program webinar TODAY

Has your basement flooded? Do you own your home? 

If you answered yes to both of these questions, or you previously participated in the City's Backwater Valve Programs, check out the Flood Control Program webinar TODAY.

The purposes of the flood control program is to reduce inflow and infiltration entering the sanitary and combined sewer system through private plumbing and to reduce discharges of untreated domestic wastewater and sanitary sewage to the environment.

We will have Curt Sander-Berg, Engineering Technician/Program Manager and Inspector, presenting the information and available for your questions.

Sign up HERE!

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Monday, March 25, 2013

Creating a Rain Garden in Your Yard- Workshop at Fairlawn Mansion

Fairlawn Mansion is doing a series of Garden Talks on Thursdays from 6:00-8:00 PM.  On April 4th, Sue O'Halloran from Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve will be giving a presentation on creating a rain garden in your yard.  We will also be presenting a webinar about rain gardens in April (go here for registration and date). 

So what are rain gardens?  They are shallow depressions intended to collect and slow rain water that runs off your roof.  They are planted with wetland plants or wet prairie plants.  The type of plants used depends on your soil type.  Here in Superior, we're a part of Lake Superior's red clay plain. 

Rain gardens protect stormwater quality and are aethestically pleasing as well.  Consider learning more about rain gardens at the Fairlawn Garden Talk or at our webinar.  For more information on rain gardens, please see the links and video below. 

A local video about a rain garden in Duluth, produced by Minnesota SeaGrant.

City of Superior Rain Gardens

Duluth Streams Rain Gardens

Wisconsin DNR Rain Gardens

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Friday, March 22, 2013

Great Lakes & Lake Superior Water Fair

Check out the video from Northland's News Center about our Water Fair!

See the article here.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Celebrate World Water Day!

March 22nd is World Water Day!  World Water Day has been celebrated on March 22nd since 1993.  It was established by the UN Conference on Environment and Development.  World Water Day's purpose is to "focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources" (UN, 2013).  The theme of this year's World Water Day is cooperation, since 2013 has been designated as the International Year of Water Cooperation.

Here are a few water facts from the UN:
  • 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.
  • 6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.
  • Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.
So what can you do? Don't pollute water and encourage others to keep water clean too.  You can also conserve water by checking your home plumbing for leaks, using a rain barrel, taking shorter showers, etc.  Check out a post we did here for more water conservation ideas.  If we all work together to conserve water now, we could have fewer water cooperation issues down the road.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Monday, March 18, 2013

Grit and Pipes

I like to hear about communities moving forward and trying new technologies.  More specialized technology is available in many fields of interest.  A newsletter of WERF (Water Environment Research Foundation came recently and highlights some new technologies.  One item listed was on predicting the remaining economic life of wastewater pipes.  We know the city streets need repairs at time and even that our cars won't last forever.  The miles of pipes within a municipality are another set of materials that has a limited life span. 

Over the bridge in Duluth, more water pipes have broken including near the Radisson Hotel and lead to people have to relocate to another hotel.  What could happen if our wastewater pipes broke?  Some pipes do have some cracks and tree roots are forever trying to do what roots do and spread out.  Some roots find their way into pipes.  What comes to a Wastewater Treatment Plant inevitably includes grit from within the land surrounding the pipes.  The removal of grit is one part of the treatment process at the Treatment Plant.  As for stormwater pipes debris can come from the pipes themselves and what enters the storm drains.  Unlike the pipes coming to the treatment plant that remove the grit, the contents from most of the stormwater pipes go untreated into a river or stream. Any organic matter coming through the drain and entering a stream can reduce the oxygen available to the life in the stream.  At this time of year a pulse of salt (road salt) will likely be entering the drains and travel out to the rivers altering the water quality.  The sand on the road can also enter and travel through the pipes.  Simple sand in a rocky bottom stream is not good for the aquatic life depending on the rocky bottom stream.  The distance the stormwater travels in the pipes and the mixing with contents of other pipes can add a loaded discharge to a stream.  We need to help keep the water as clean as possible so that the rivers aren't polluted from a sediment load.

I'll also use this section to add a verse that about 70 of us (mostly 5th graders) sang at the Mariner Mall last Friday at the Water Fair.   I have since tweaked it a bit.   It goes to the melody Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

I love Lakes and Streams
Their health depends on us
Let's all help to keep them clean
For years and years to come.

The pipes are part of the plan to keep water off the street.  We need to be part of the plan to limit what goes in the drains.  The City of Superior also has an Illicit Discharge Hotline.  Please call it if you ever notice something irregular coming out of a stormwater pipe or see a spill or something going into a pipe. The number is 715-394-2761.    We also have a form at and search for illicit discharge.

-Written by Wendy Grethen

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Where's the Concern?

Great Lakes Echo asks its readers to identify an Area of Concern highlighted by a video each week.  Check out this week's Area of Concern below...I think it will look pretty familiar.

Area of Concerns (AOCs) are spots in the Great Lakes basin that have environmental degradation.  The St. Louis River AOC has several beneficial use impairments (BUIs), including:
  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Excessive Loading of Sediment and Nutrients
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Beach closings
  • Fish tumors or other deformities
  • Degradation of aesthetics
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat (US EPA)

  • For more information about the St. Louis AOC, visit the following sites:

    US EPA
    Great Lakes Commission
    Wisconsin DNR
    Lake Superior Binational Forum

    -Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

    Reminder: Webinar TODAY about the Stormwater Permit

    Check out the third installment in the Environmental Matters Webinar Series: MS4 Permit.  Diane Nelson, the City of Superior Stormwater Coordinator, will be explaining what the permit is, why we have it, and how YOU can get involved!  Don't forget....for each webinar a City of Superior resident attends before June 1, 2013, they are entered into a drawing for a FREE rain barrel!

    Go to the registration page here:

    -Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    Take the Fix a Leak Week Pledge!

    The fifth annual Fix a Leak Week is March 18th-24th!
    Gallons upon gallons of water can be wasted through small leaks in your home. Fix a Leak Week is a good time to check your home for leaks.  The following steps from the US EPA tell you how to check for leaks:

    1. Check toilets for silent leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank and seeing if the color appears in the bowl before you flush. Don't forget to check irrigation systems and spigots, too.

    2. Twist and tighten pipe connections. To save even more water without a noticeable difference in flow, twist in a WaterSense labeled faucet aerator or showerhead.

    3. Replace the fixture if necessary. Look for the WaterSense label when replacing plumbing fixtures, which signifies the product has been certified to save water and perform well.
    Source: USEPA

    Teachers: Take the Fix a Leak Week pledge for your group or classroom and receive a Certificate of Participation! See here for details.

    For more information about Fix a Leak Week, see here.

    -Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

    Stop in and see us at the Housing Expo! You could win a rain barrel!

     Stop in to the Housing Expo at Mariner Mall on Saturday between 10 AM and 3 PM.  We will be there with information about rain barrels and rain gardens.  We will also have a raffle to win a rain barrel.  
    -Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    Save water and money with a rain barrel!

    Spring and summer are great.  Sunshine, warm temperatures, blooming gardens....all things that we like to see.  However, those bulbs you plant need water to make your yard the talk of the town.  With all the other expenses of summer like high gas costs and vacations, doesn't it make sense to save a little money wherever you can? 

    Instead of watering your garden from the hose off your home, purchase a rain barrel from our Rain Barrel and Compost Bin Sale.  Rain barrels capture water that runs off your roof and into your gutters and store it to be used at a later time.  When it's time to water, hook a hose to your barrel or fill a watering can from the spigot.  If the summer is dry, like much of Wisconsin experienced last summer, you can keep your plants perky with your stored water that came to you free from the sky.  Rain barrels also help keep local water bodies clean by diverting water that would typically go into the storm drain and out to the lake.       

    We're also selling compost bins and accessories, including a compost turner and a kitchen scrap collector.  Composting keeps food waste out of landfills and improves soil by adding organic matter back into the soil. 

    So....fill out an order form HERE or check out our website HERE. We will accept orders until May 24th, 2013 and have your items available for you on June 11th from 12:30-7:00 PM at Wessman Arena. 

    The sale is sponsored by the City of Superior Environmental Services Division and UW Superior.

    -Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards