Monday, March 31, 2014

How do people feel about water quality and runoff?

This past weekend we had a little survey at the Douglas County Fish and Game Show. We asked: 
1) Stormwater runoff is not important in rural areas
                        5/27 strongly agreed
                        5/27 somewhat agreed
                        2/27 somewhat disagreed
                       15/27 strongly disagreed

2) Water quality is important to me
                        24/27 strongly agreed
                         3/27 somewhat agreed
                        0/27 somewhat disagreed
                        0/27 strongly disagreed

3) How do you wash your car?
                         20/28 used commercial car wash
                          3/28 hand wash on paved driveway
                          6/28 hand wash on lawn
                          1/28 does not wash car

Everyone surveyed agrees that water quality is important to them. However, there were some people who believes that stormwater runoff is NOT IMPORTANT in rural areas. Rural areas ARE important to runoff. In fact the 2000 National Water Quality Inventory indicated that rural runoff is the leading source of pollution to surveyed rivers and lakes and a major contributor to groundwater contamination. It is important in rural areas to be mindful of runoff. That includes: picking up pet waste, incorporating native plant species to reduce runoff and erosion, limiting chemical use, and much more.

Most people do use a commercial car wash to wash their car. This is great as commercial car washes are designed to properly treat all the soapy and dirty wash water. Washing your car on the lawn is pretty good too as the washwater will soak into the ground. You should washing on a paved surface (good to see only a few do) as all the wash water will flow right into a storm drain and then right into a nearby stream.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fish & Game Show this Weekend - Stop by our Booth

Stop by our educational booth at the Douglas Co. Fish & Game Show at Wessman Arena.  We'll be doing a short survey and that survey becomes part of an entry to win a FREE CAR WASH.  Thank you to ICO for donating the car wash passes.  By washing your vehicle at a commercial car wash you help keep water quality clean by not washing your car in your driveway where the dirt and soap can go down a storm drain and out to a nearby stream.

Show Hours
Friday 5:00pm-9:00pm
Saturday 10:00am-7:00pm
Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm
$7.00 Admission12 & Under FREETicket is good for all three days

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Native Plants and Trees for Sale

We still have feet of snow on the ground and more coming today but think green by planning on ordering native plants and trees.  The South St. Louis County Soil and Water District has a sale now taking orders.

Friday, April 18, is the deadline for ordering bare-root seedlings from the South St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District. The native trees and shrubs come in bundles of 10 and 25 plants. Pickup is May 15-17. Visit for info and order forms or call 218-723-4867.


Sharing a release from the Alliance for the Great Lakes
For Immediate Release                              

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Bill Banning Microbeads Critical Step in Reducing
Harmful Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes


CHICAGO – The introduction of microbead-free waters legislation in the Illinois Legislature takes an important step forward in reducing harmful plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

The legislation responds to a rising tide of concern among researchers and the public about the impact of microbeads­ – synthetic plastic particles used as an abrasive in personal-care products – on our waterways and wildlife. The bill, SB 2727, would prohibit the production, manufacture, distribution and sale in Illinois of any personal-care product containing plastic microbeads.

Microbeads are commonly found in hundreds of products, including facial scrubs, soaps, shampoos and toothpastes, where they are used as a synthetic alternative to natural abrasives such as ground almonds, oatmeal and pumice. The Illinois bill, introduced March 14, is similar to legislation newly introduced in New York and California. New York, a fellow Great Lakes state, in February became the first in the nation to propose legislation for microbead-free waters.

When consumers use personal-care products such as facial scrubs and toothpaste containing microbeads, the beads are rinsed down the drain and into our sewer systems. They are designed to be single-use components with no possible opportunity for reuse or recycling. Because of their small size and buoyancy, microbeads escape treatment by sewage plants and are discharged into rivers, lakes and oceans. Consumers can determine if their personal-care or beauty products contain microbeads by checking the product ingredient list for “polyethylene” or “polypropylene.”

“We applaud state Sen. Heather Steans for putting forth this bill and proactively addressing this emerging threat to the Great Lakes and all Illinois waters,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes Research Manager Olga Lyandres. “These products are unnecessary and do not belong in our Great Lakes, especially when many readily available alternatives exist.”


Once in the water, microbeads, like other plastics, can absorb persistent toxic chemicals commonly found in waters across the state and can be mistaken for food by small fish and wildlife. Scientific studies have shown the concentration of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on microbeads collected in the Great Lakes to be up to twice that measured in the oceans, and to also contain detectable levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); both chemicals are toxic environmental contaminants that persist in the environment. Studies have shown that fish and wildlife of all sizes consume plastic, raising serious concerns about the impacts of microbeads on aquatic species and on up the food chain.

“We must keep these contaminants out of Lake Michigan so they don’t end up in our drinking water or fish dinners,” said Steans.

“Our research in 2013 surveying microplastics in Lake Michigan has shown enormous concentrations of these plastic microbeads on the lake surface. These plastic beads, traced to personal-care products, resemble fish eggs and easily end up the environment. Why are we corrupting our fisheries at the base of the food chain for a vanity product where natural and market viable alternatives already exist?” said Stiv Wilson, Five Gyres Institute associate director. 

"We are very pleased with the proposed action of the Illinois Legislature to ban microbeads,” said Keith Hobbs, mayor of Thunder Bay, Ontario and chairman of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. “The Cities Initiative strongly believes that the personal-care products industry must promptly halt producing goods with microbeads so we can eliminate their entry into the Great Lakes." 

Several leading beauty-product manufacturers – Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, The Body Shop, and L’Oreal – have all made recent commitments to phase out the use of microbeads in their products.



For additional information contact:

Alliance for the Great Lakes: Olga Lyandres, (312) 445-9749;

Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative: David Ullrich, (312) 201-4516,

The 5 Gyres Institute: Stiv Wilson, (503) 913-7381,


Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes is the oldest Great Lakes organization in North America. Our mission is to: conserve and restore the world's largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife. More about the Alliance for the Great Lakes is online at



Susan Campbell | Communications Manager |

Alliance for the Great Lakes |

1845 N. Farwell Avenue, Suite 100 | Milwaukee, WI 53202 | 414-540-0699




Monday, March 24, 2014

March 22 was World Water Day

This past Saturday was World Water Day. The Sustainability office at UMD is acknowledging it with a whole week of events for the public. Follow this link for more info: UMD water week

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday's Water Fair

Tuesday was a busy morning of learning.  Thank you to all station leaders, teachers from Cooper and Bryant, and extra adults who spent the morning with us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

All About Water - at the Water Fair

Tomorrow is the big Water Fair scheduled at the Mariner Mall.  It is for 5th graders from Bryant and Cooper Elementary School.  There will be 10 learning stations with experts from the community having an activity and learning opportunity for the kids.  Guests are coming from the WI DNR, EPA, NOAA, MN Sea Grant, NERR, Lake Superior Research Institute, Environmental Services, and a retired teacher, current teacher, and other adult helpers will be a part of it.

These are some of the questions the students will be able to answer after being part of the morning activities.  Do you know responses to all of these questions?

What is a watershed?

Name types of pollution that are considered to be non-point source pollution?

How do natural plants affect the amount and quality of runoff compared to bare soil?  What is one way a person can reduce stormwater runoff?

What is used to test water quality?  What are 3 main pollutants?

What species of fish live in the St. Louis River and other streams that flow into Lake Superior? Why do we count the fish and how are they counted?

What is bathymetry?

Where are the deeper areas of Lake Superior?

Name 3 aquatic invasive species.

How can we stop the spread?

What is a staff gauge? How can we mitigate (or reduce the effects of) flooding?

What is a retention pond and what is its use?

What effect do wetlands have on flooding?

What is the difference between climate and weather? Why are wetlands important for mitigating flooding?  What are some climate change impacts on Lake Superior streams?  What are some climate change impacts on Minnesota forests ecosystems?

What is bioaccumulation?

What chemicals bio-accumulate?

Where do the chemicals come from?

What watershed do you live in?  If you were a drop of water that landed outside of your house tomorrow, what path would you follow to get to the Atlantic Ocean?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Preparing for spring snow melt (by MPCA)

Warmer Temperatures are Coming Up! 

Protect Minnesota’s waters by making sure your site is ready for the spring melt! Spring Melt

 Before snow melt or rainfall, take extra care to ensure all erosion and sediment controls are in place and functioning properly.

 Be sure to inspect and maintain before and during spring melt:

ü  Silt fences

ü  Biorolls

ü  Mulch

ü  Erosion blankets

ü  Sediment basins

ü  Inlet protection

ü  All other erosion and sediment control BMPs

 Check for Sediment Deposits in:

ü  Surface waters

ü  Drainage ditches

ü  Site exits

ü  Curb and gutters

ü  Catch basins

ü  Sediment basins

ü  Infiltration areas


Required inspections (by a trained individual) and maintenance schedule must begin within 24 hours after runoff occurs at the site or 24 hours prior to resuming construction, whichever comes first. Resume inspections meeting permit requirements when site conditions are appropriate.

 PCA imageFind more information at:



Minnesota Stormwater Hotline

651-757-2119 or 800-657-3804

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ice Cover and Effects

It's March but with the cold winter ice is still plentiful on Lake Superior.  It's also an opportunity to learn about what the effect will be from more ice on the lake.    In the Twin Ports we have the Large Lakes Observatory and Jay Austin who has researched effects.
MN Sea Grant has also had research about ice on Lake Superior

I stopped by Brighton Beach yesterday and at least 50 ice shacks were out on the Lake.  Some were pretty far out, too.   How long will the ice last?

Here's a report predicting effects on our summer weather and evaporation rates due to this winter's ice cover.   Cooler summer weather, reduced evaporation rates, less lowering of lake levels due to those factors - these are some of the effects ahead.

Here is a list of Michigan experts on Great Lakes ice and its effects.
U-Michigan experts available to discuss near-record Great Lakes ice cover and its implications

ANN ARBOR—Great Lakes ice cover has now increased to 91 percent, creeping closer to the record of 94.7 percent set in 1979, according to the federal government's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan has several researchers who can discuss the near-record ice cover and its implications.

Frank Marsik, associate research scientist in atmospheric science, can discuss how the ice might affect weather later this year in Michigan. Contact: (734) 763-5369 or

Derek Posselt, assistant professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, can address how ice cover affects lake-effect snow and rain in the Great Lakes region. His recent research shows that the location of the ice, and not just its thickness, plays a role in determining precipitation levels. Contact: (734) 936-0502 or

Andrew Gronewold, adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at U-M and a hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, can discuss the impact of ice and cold water in the Great Lakes, how water levels affect shipping and tourism and projects under way to obtain better measurements. Watch a video interview: Contact: (734) 763-6829 or

Dave Schwab, research scientist at the U-M Water Center, says that while this winter has been different than other recent winters, the weather we've experienced falls within the normal range of short-term climate variability for the region. "This winter is unusual compared to other very recent winters, but it may not be so unusual in the long run," he said. "We only have about 40 years of detailed ice statistics for the Great Lakes to work with, which is a fairly short record." Contact: (734) 763-1093 or

Dmitry Beletsky, an expert on the hydrodynamics of lakes, can address the impact of Great Lakes ice on lake circulation patterns, current speed and summer water temperatures. "Deep lakes like Superior and Michigan take longer to warm up after a winter with extensive ice cover, and water temperatures will likely remain cooler than normal throughout the year," said Beletsky, associate research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, a collaboration between U-M and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Contact: (734) 741-2360 or

Monday, March 3, 2014

Geology Lesson: the history behind Superior's clay soils

At the end of the Pleistocene (14,000 years ago) glaciers began to recede, with the melt and reduction of glaciers resulted in the loss and deposition of debris that had accumulated in the glacier and carried materials over very large distances. Leaving behind eskers, till, erratic’s as well as a very common mineral found in Northern Wisconsin, which happens to be part of what geologist call the Miller Creek Formation, this sediment was deposited at the end of our last glacial period. The reason we bring this up is because clay is a mineral that is not porous, when clay gets wet and compacted it creates tighter bonds with other clay minerals. When we in Superior receive high amounts of precipitation, especially during the spring when the ground is already saturated, these minerals cling together and form a sheet like structure in which water easily flows over. 

When looking at the lake the boundaries of the lake are angled towards Superior. So during heavy rain events, or those that happen while the ground is already saturated, direct everything to the lake. With the accumulation of undesirable wastes in our yards it is easy to see that it does not take much for water to run from our properties, into the road, and into the lake. The material that makes up Superior Wisconsin is not ideal for the natural filtration of rain water and melt, for this reason it is important to clean up pet waste, reduce salt in the winter and for you in the spring limit the amount of fertilizers used.
Remains of an esker often resembles an elongated hill formation

You can see this at the Sea Caves near Cornicopia, WI, where the till had been deposited on top of the sandstone formation. Red line represents the extent of the sandstone formation and the area represented in blue corresponds with glacial till.

Here is an example of an erratic, though sizes of these glacially dropped stones may vary, they were all deposited from the same processes

Written by Michael Krick.