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