Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Water Film Fest II - January 29

Films can take us to places, share ideas, and open our connection to something.   Please join us and attend Water Film Fest II.  The date and place are being confirmed still.   Jan 29 (Thursday) from 6-8 p.m. in Room 1012 Swenson Hall at UWS is the place and time.  A dozen short films will be shown - all relate to water.   Several are local productions.
Thanks to UWS Lake Superior Research Institute for arranging the place.  It's easy to get to for students and the public.  Two screens.  Every seat is a good seat.
Free.  Bring a friend.  Bring a date :-)

Share the announcement with others who may want to attend: 

Here is the poster :


Thursday, December 18, 2014

What is impervious? How much in Superior is impervious?

About 21% of the City of Superior is impervious.  On these types of materials water does not infiltrate into the ground.  Instead, it runsoff.  Whenever there is runoff there is the possibility of pollutants traveling along with the water.  Pollutants ranging from natural things like soil, leaves, small branches to chemicals and materials like oil and spills. 

From the pie graph below you can see that of the impervious areas most of it is due to roads (21%).  Buildings comprise about 16% of the areas. 
Other categories with 5% or over are: unpaved driveways (16%), paved parking areas (9%), railroad yard (7%), unpaved roads (5%), paved driveways (5%), and parking unpaved (5%).  Unpaved areas are considered impervious because of compaction of the soil.  Other areas considered impervious are pools, tanks, trails, alleys, sidewalks, decks, concrete, and holding ponds.

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 2 - EPA's Birthday

December 2, 1970 was the start of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.   The EPA was set up to help deal with and preventing environmental problems. 

Superior is in the EPA's Region 5 which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and 35 tribes. 

The EPA encompasses preventing and cleaning up of air and water pollution,  education, and enforcement of laws.  Climate Change and sustainability are also big topics now where businesses, governments, and residents need to work together.

The City of Superior follows the WPDES (Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) from the EPA and enforced by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  Superior Environmental Services is about keeping water clean and with the permit we are monitoring construction sites, educating the public, education municipal staff on preventing pollution, checking for illicit discharge, and finding ways to reduce nonpoint source pollutions.  The motto is "only rain down the drain."   The storm drains can help a street by reducing the likelihood of flooding but unfortunately, they are openings to local streams.  

Here are some national photos being submitted about views of America.
Documenting Photos - Documerica is place for people to submit photos


If you'd like to share any older or current photos of Superior with us please do so.  Local waters, native plant gardens, water recreation activities, flooding, snow or rain event shots, and such would be welcome to be part of a collection on local images. 
We won't be seeing leaves, green grass or flowers for awhile but if you have photos from other seasons that would be great.  Perhaps this will turn into a school project.

Remember we all make a difference in local water quality.  What we do on land affects our local surface waters.  The EPA is a government organization to help with keeping the environment healthy which in turn helps wildlife and humans.  Local organizations, local government, local businesses, and local cooperation is all important for finding ways to keep the environment in good shape for now and for the future.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Teacher Tab

Thank you for visiting our blog where we share news, events, information and more about stormwater and how we can prevent stormwater pollution.  We love to go out and visit classrooms, the senior center, organizations, and work with Lake Superior NERR.  We also know teachers are key people for encouraging education and understanding of water and water topics.

There is a new TAB on this blog - FOR TEACHERS.  It has some maps and exercises for students to learn more about local impervious areas, such as their school.  It also has an exercise to calculate (using a USGS website) how much water falls during a given rainfall.  All the water has to go somewhere. 

I hope these pictures and the activity on the new page will be a good resource for engaging students and local learning and helping keep our local waters clean.  We all make a difference.

Go to the NEW  FOR TEACHERS tab

Monday, November 10, 2014

Food Recovery Week November 17-21

A message from the EPA
Most people don't realize how much food they throw away every day from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. More than 96 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills. In 2011, we landfilled more than 36 million tons of food waste. Once in landfills, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.

There are many ways you can reduce food waste, for example:

  • Shop your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
  • Plan your menu before you go shopping and buy only those things on your menu.
  • Buy only what you realistically need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
  • Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away.
  • ...and more!

November 17 - 21 is Food Recovery Week. More information and tips about reducing food waste:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Let's Talk Recycling II - Nov 17

Mark your calendar to attend:
Let's Talk Recycling II
Nov 17 starting at 6 p.m. at the Superior Public Library.

Local recycling of electronic waste and vehicle waste.  We use electronics and a car/bus/vehicle almost everyday of our lives.  What about the lives of these items?  Where will they go when we no longer want them or they no longer function?  Learn from local businesses involved in recycling cars and e-waste and oil.  

Bring your questions. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Seniors Play Lake Superior Jeopardy

Seniors at the Senior Center on Tower played a round of Lake Superior Jeopardy.  The team members had a choice between 5 categories:  Water Use, Lake Superior, Local Waters, Prevent Pollution, What's the Difference. 
Everyone learned more about the local streams and watershed and ways to prevent pollution in our local waters and ultimately Lake Superior.

Here's a photo of a map highlighting our local streams:

Thanks to the local Burger King and McDonalds restaurants for donating food coupon passes.  Environmental Services also brought in prizes ranging from Swedish Fish to fish toys and magnets.

There are many mouths in Superior Bay-  river mouths that is.   Do you know all the local streams?  Storm Drains drain out to local streams which head out to Lake Superior.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Winterize Your Rain Barrel

Now is the time to winterize your rain barrel (ideally before first frost). Rain barrels, especially the plastic Orbis barrels we’ve sold, are not meant to stay outside all winter long. If left in freezing temperatures, any residual water will freeze and crack various parts of the barrel. Rain barrel owners have to make sure that the barrels are properly stored during the harsh Superior winters. Here are winterizing instructions from Orbis:
Discontinue use of rain barrel BEFORE the first frost by:
(1) Open the faucet to drain most of the water
(2) Remove the lid and tip the barrel to empty any residual water (overflow hose can remain connected)
(3) Clean both lid and barrel using brush with dishwashing detergent and warm water
(4) Clean screen by running hose onto it from the underside of the lid
(5) Store the barrel upside down so water cannot accumulate (preferably inside a shed/garage)

Same rules apply to rain barrels you may have created. These may even be less fussy in the winter because typically spouts connected to them are metal would less likely crack compared to the plastic ones that come in the Orbis system. 

Ice formation will damage rain barrels

Monday, October 27, 2014

Solid water? What is Wastewater?

Up to 99% of wastewater can be pure water.  The remaining percent is "total solids."  This is what remains if wastewater is totally dried.
Total solids are classified as either dissolved or suspended solids. Of the suspended solids some are settleable and some are colloidal. Dissolved solids would pass right through filters.  Some are organic and some are inorganic.
The organic matter of wastewater typically consists of
proteins (40-60%),
carbohydrates (25-50%) and
fats and oils (8-12%).
Wastewater can also include synthetic organic molecules.  Nitrogen and phosphorus arrives via wastewater and can cause aquatic biological activity to increase, which would lower the dissolved oxygen in lakes and rivers.  Micro-organisms in wastewater may cause diseases and that's why disinfection is part of treatment.  Here at the Superior Wastewater Treatment Facility we use UV light to disinfect the water.

Note: We can help prevent stormwater pollution be reducing the solids that enter the storm drains.  Growing native plants greatly reduces the amount of stormwater run-off and holds soil in place.  Washing cars at a carwash lets the dirt from the car do to a special drain to trap dirt particles instead of having those go down storm drains.  These are just a couple examples to help keep Lake Superior clean. 

Landfill grows every day

To dispose of waste four main things can be done : recycle it, compost, incinerate or landfill. 

Thanks to Darienne McNamara with the City of Superior Environmental Services who is the regulatory compliance specialist for the landfill for giving the landfill tours to 18 of us on Friday and Saturday.  Duluth, Superior and surrounding communities garbage is trucked to this Moccasin Mike landfill that opened 35 years. The landfill is projected to last about 8 more years. 
 This landfill currently accepts 10,000-15,000 tons of waste each month from Superior, Duluth, and the surrounding area. The tallest cell at the landfill is over 120 feet tall – which is the tallest land in Superior.
What can be brought to the landfill? 
The Superior Landfill accepts brush year round, along with grass clippings and leaves which are separated and used for compost. There is also a public drop off for used oil, absorbents, and filters. A Reuse Center is onsite for unwanted items that may still be usable to others, such as furniture, bicycles, etc.  As a reminder, the following items may not be disposed of at the landfill – recyclables, demolition materials, and hazardous waste including electronic waste. Some items such as tires, e-waste, and mattresses may be dropped off for a nominal fee.  There is a portion of the landfill where the public goes to dump their items after being weighed on the scale.
What did we see at the landfill?
It appeared to be quite a bit of plastic and materials that could have been recycled.
Lots of gulls but also other birds.  Quite a few eagles were scavenging as well.
Two dozer-type machine equipment were constantly moving the trash and working to compact it as much as possible.
The open part of the landfill needs to be covered every day.  What is used?
Waste sludge from New Page paper mill
Sludge from the City of Superior wastewater Treatment Plant
Sand that is swept from street sweeping in the city
What are the pipes for?  There are multiple pipes running throughout the landfill.  Some are for directing the methane gas to one main outlet pipe.  A flame is constantly burning to convert the methane gas to CO2 which is much less of a greenhouse gas than methane.
Other pipes are for collecting the liquid that accumulates in the landfill that is part stormwater and part a mix of the liquids in the landfill.  It is called leachate.  The leachate is directed to a lift station which then has it go on to the Superior Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Each year about 7 million gallons of leachate from this landfill goes to the WWTP.

Liner and Cap :  A landfill is more than a hole in the ground or a mound of garbage.  Regulatory permitting requires a proper liner be constructed for a landfill.  It includes layers, like lasagna, of materials to keep the ground water separate and feet of impermeable clay is used as well as thick plastic.    When a cell of a landfill is filled - it is then capped - again with substrate, clay, plastic, more medium and then with grass.  It required that the grass be mowed for the next 40 years to not have trees growing on site as their roots could interfere with the liner.

Parting tips:   How can we improve waste diversion?   Keep unwanted mattress dry.  When a mattress is wet it can no longer be recycled through the program at Good Will due to mold.   Please recycle plastics, glass, metals.  Use less - use reusable bags, reusable container,

Local resources:

Superior Landfill
WLSSD  - Household hazardous waste facility, major compost site for yard scraps and food wast

Douglas Co. Recycling Coordinator, Mary Klun
ReStore Habitat for Humanity store - 1621 Broadway.  722-3875
There also are textile and shoe recycling boxes through town.  They are green and white.

Don't forget about the medicine drop box at the Superior Police Dept.

Every night the landfill has to be covered.  A waste sludge from New Page is brought in and that makes up part of the covering.  Waste sludge from the Superior Wastewater Facility also is part of the covering. 

Parts of the landfill are already capped and a section in the upper half is currently in the process of being capped.
A fence was set up this year to trap some of the blowing plastic debris.
Contact the Superior Wastewater Treatment Plant for information on proper disposal of other items, including fluorescent bulbs which all contain mercury and should never go in the trash and household hazardous waste.  Disposal information is at www.ci.superior.wi.us/disposalguide

Thanks to those who attended the tour.  Superior, Duluth, rural Douglas County and even a Twin Cities person attended.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet

What's green and looks like a mail box?

It's the drug dropoff box located in the Superior Police Department lobby.  It's open from 8AM-4:30PM. 

If you have any unwanted medicines in your home it's best to remove them to avoid harm to others.
Bring the unwanted medicines there.  Do not flush medicines as the wastewater treatment plant is not designed to remove them from the wastewater. 

In Duluth this Friday, Oct 10 is a Medicine Take Back Day.  Medicines can be dropped off at WLSSD from 9AM-5PM on Friday.  This is the last of their 4 collections in 2014.  Police stations in Duluth and Hermantown have dropoff boxes, too. 

Proper disposal of medicines, household hazardous waste, and recyclables makes a difference in preventing pollution. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Learn more about Freshwater

I came across this short quiz about freshwater from National Geographic's website.
We can learn more about the environment through quizzes, games, the internet, classes, television programs, and getting outdoors.

This way to the quiz  ....

Aren't we lucky to live near the beautiful freshwater Great Lake  - Lake Superior?

Looking forward to talking about water with Northern Lights Elementary students at the end of the week. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Protect Our Waters Fun Fair was Fun

It was fun to see the interactions and involvement of local youth playing games related to preventing pollution and protecting our waters.  This event was held at the Superior Middle School.

Thanks to the following helpers:

Family Forum - Penguin slide Plinko
BMO Bank -  frogs in the wetlands
Farmers Insurance - toss the ball in the recyclable containers
Iron River Fish Hatchery - pin the tail on the fish,  fish models and live brook trout
Lake Superior NERR- look at maps of Lake Superior and Great Lakes with 3-D glasses
UWS Lake Superior Research Institute - Aquatic invasive species
St. Louis River Alliance - what's on the bottom of Lake Superior

and the City of Superior Environmental Services:
Go Fish
Scoop the Poop activity
Toss the giant water drop in the rain barrel
Fish Prints - make your own
Water Wheel - answer questions on water

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rex makes a visit at the Cause for Paws event

Rex made an appearance this month at the Cause for Paws event.  If you'd like Rex to visit an event let us know.  Rex reminds people to Scoop the Poop.  Speaking of Scoop the Poop we hope you will attend our Protect Our Waters Fun Fair on October 6.  One of the game stations will be on Scooping the Poop  (Fake poop - no smell ...).  Erica from the front office will be running the station. 

Way to go to the Douglas County Humane Society.  Raising funds for finding homes for homeless pets.  A much-needed new shelter is on its way to being built off Highway 2 near the east entrance to Superior. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Microplastics in Oceans and the Great Lakes Presentation

We invite you to attend a presentation by local researcher  Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, UWS professor.

Microplastics in Oceans and the Great Lakes

Sept 17
6:30 p.m.
Superior Public Library

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sept 18 (Thursday) film showing of Waterlife - the epic journey of water

Come watch the full length film showing of Waterlife - the epic journey of water on Thursday, Sept 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Superior Public Library. This is part of National Pollution Prevention Week.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Keep grass clippings in check

Mowing the lawn is part of urban life around here. And the product of mowing? Grass clippings!! Often times grass clippings are left on the lawn, which is the preferred “disposal” method (grass clippings equal one application of nitrogen per year, reducing fertilizer needs). But, some of the excessive clippings inevitably find their way onto impervious surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and streets. When a rain storm hits, all those clippings will travel to a storm drain and will result in something that looks like this:

To avoid your neighbors calling the authorities wondering what that creepy green stuff that is polluting the waters and killing the fish, sweep up your clippings! Grass clippings have nutrients that contribute to algae growth and eutrophication of water bodies. Thus, leaving your grass clippings on driveways, sidewalks, etc. for the rain to carry it away is just like pouring fertilizer directly into the water.
Don’t do it! 

Compost those clippings!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Structural Soil & North Tower Ave project

Last week one part of the bus tour we hosted was a drive along the newly reconstructed North Tower Ave.

Here is a closer look at what was planted there:
Common Hackberry
Discovery Elm
Harvest Gold Linden
Ivory Silk Lilac Tree
Honey Locust
Northwood Maple

Alpine Spirea
Dakota Spirea
Little Prince Spirea
Prairie petite lilac

Blue forest Juniper
Valley Cushion Pine

Feather reed grass
Prairie Dropseed

Together over 2000 plants were planted on the stretch of road north of Belknap.

To better ensure the survivability of the trees and plants a water system is in place and also structural soil developed at Cornell that uses Hydrogel has been used.  Here is a link to learn more about the special soil that keeps spaces open (reduced compaction potential) so that water can be more available to trees.


Belknap Street Project is coming next.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weed Walks & Talk on Aug 23

Identify weeds in your yard and community.  Three walks will be held on Saturday, Aug 23 to identify weeds in our area.  The walks will begin at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. at the City of Superior Environmental Services website at the Farmers Market.  The Farmers Market will be at the Superior Public Library rather than Barkers Island due to the Dragon Boat event. 

At Noon, you're invited to attend an indoor event on weed identification in the small classroom at the Superior Public Library.  
Learn about better identifying what is in your yard and garden and what to do about them. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts on stormwater in Superior . . .

We had an informal survey during the ReGrand opening festivities of North Tower Ave. about stormwater beliefs. There were 3 statements that respondents rated as strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree. The statements were:

           (1) Reducing stormwater runoff is important to me
           (2) I would like to see more green infrastructure around Superior
           (3) Stormwater pollution is a problem in Superior

For the first statement (Reducing stormwater runoff is important to me), 50 of the 60 respondents (83%) strongly agreed to the statement while the remaining 10 somewhat agreed. No one disagreed.
For the second statement (I would like to see more green infrastructure around Superior) 81% strongly agreed to the statement, 14% somewhat agreed and the remaining 5% somewhat disagreed with the statement. No one strongly disagreed.
The third statement (Stormwater pollution is a problem in Superior) had the most variable responses. 48% strongly agreed to the statement, 41% somewhat agreed, 9% somewhat disagreed and one person strongly disagreed with the statement that stormwater pollution is problem. 
Nearly all of the 60 respondents happened to be Superior residents.

How do you think you would respond to the 3 statements? Do you think responses will vary before and after a rain storm? Send us a comment!