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

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