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

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't flush the fat!

It sounds counter-intuitive in a diet crazed world full of quick results diet products.  We're not commenting on those.  We want everyone to stop putting fats, oils, and grease down any household drain.  It can lead to some pretty sticky situations.  Case in point: London made news this week because a 17 ton fat berg was in their sewers.  A fat berg? What is THAT?  (here's the news story, in case you'd like to see the fat berg yourself)
So where do fats, oils, and grease (FOGs) come from?  Well, when you make meat (think bacon), gravy, or sauces or use cooking oils, shortening, lard, butter, margarine, etc, you're using/creating FOGs.
When fats, oils, and grease are put down the sink, they can clog up pipes either in your home or on the way to the wastewater treatment plant.  Even if they are dumped while still hot and in liquid form, they will cool and solidify on their journey to the WWTP.  The garbage disposal won't get rid of them, either.  Once they solidify, they can build up and reduce the amount of water that can flow through the pipes.  Or they can cause a sewer backup...and that is NOT a problem you want.  
If you've cooked things that use/create FOGs, you need to be able to dispose of them somehow.  Anything with fats, oils, or grease should go in the trash instead of the garbage disposal.  It also should not be put into compost bins. FOGs can attract pests and be fairly odorous in a compost bin, so not a great idea.  First of all, any dishes that were used in preparation or cooking should be wiped down without water or a cloth rag.  You should use a paper towel so that it can be discarded; using a cloth rag will just cause problems later on when the rag has to be washed.  Discard the paper towels in the trash. Any remaining food or FOGs on the cooking implements should also be discarded in the trash.  This will prevent the FOGs from becoming an expensive and gross problem for you down the line.

For more information, check out our webinar "Fats, Oils, and Grease Management for the Food Service Industry" on August 21st.  Register here.

-Written by Jillian Schubert Edwards

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Add Native Plants to your yard - Sale going on Sunday, Aug 11

The Hillside Public Orchard is selling locally grown native butterfly-attracting plants grown at the orchard to raise money for further improvements, including a new outdoor brick oven to be used by the neighborhood.  The event is noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the orchard at 10th Street and Sixth Avenue E. in Duluth (near UDAC).  The plants include swamp milkweed, Lindley's aster, pussy toes, black-eye Susan, yarrow and fragrant giant hyssop.  If you can't make the sale and still want to buy call 218-828-0419. 

Written by Wendy