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