Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter is the Perfect Time

Here in the northern part of Wisconsin we will likely have winter for several more months.  Winter is a great time to plan for the summer.

Here are 3 ideas on what you could spend some time planning this winter:

1.  Look at garden websites and native plants. 
Plan a rain garden or native plant area in your yard.  Where has water accumulated?  Where could you redirect a drain spout from your house? 
Check out the Native Plant tab as part of this blog.   Native plants have many benefits - both in terms of cleaning stormwater, adding beauty to your yard, reducing yard maintenance (no mowing), and providing food for pollinators.  Here is a Rain Garden manual with some ideas.  Learn about the zones of a rain garden and what plants could be planted in each.  Here is a site to learn about plants per zone.  
Since we aren't seeing blossoms now outdoors - visit websites or library books on native plants.  The colors are fun - even if we can't take in the nice smells of some of the flowers.   That will have to wait until you have them planted in your yard and the time for blossoming has arrived.

2.  Cleaning Time.  Another winter prep activity could be on cleaning out unwanted materials in your garage, basement or under the sink.  Spring cleaning - or at least on some mild winter days - can be good to take care of items - even unwanted medicines.  Are the pills expired?  Do you not need that can of partial can of paint?  Superior has an agreement with WLSSD in Duluth to bring items to their Hazardous Waste Facility.   Here is our disposal guide.  Here is information on disposal from WLSSD.  Here are their hours.
You also may want to stop for a car wash.  Commercial car washes are designed to capture grit and oil from your vehicle.  Any time of the year - commercial car washes are the preferred practice to wash your car without creating stormwater runoff and sending pollution or debris down storm drains and out to nearby streams.

3. Event Planning  Here is information on planning on setting up recycling at special events

Monday, January 19, 2015

Orb365 Update

Thank you to the over 25 businesses, organizations, and community members who participated in making ice orbs!  Each orb was representing a day in the year that water is important.  Over 365 came in - some were on the liquid-side and some cracked so the extras helped.  
365 is a pretty big number and orb by orb the numbers grew. 

This project location was Center City Park on Belknap and Tower Ave.

Thanks to Cathedral students who made 200 of the ice orbs.  Wow!   Here is Principal Carr dropping their batch off.

I picked up orbs from a dozen places and the colorful pile grew.

As the pieces of the balloons were removed (it took tubs of warm water using rubber gloves to do the task with some of them) the beauty of the orbs was fantastic to see on the clear and the dyed ones.  It was so fun to see the orbs of different sizes - and even shapes. 

The sculpture that resulted - well - there were plans of building a taller organic shape - partly as if it was a person - since we are over half water.  The balls in the given temperature didn't want to stack more than 5 or so high.  The sculpture that was 'born' was a rather simple organic low-to-the-ground- shape.  It has a head and two arms reaching out.  One arm could be thought of as a pollution prevention arm and the other as water conservation arm.    Or, with a more city twist, one could be Superior and one could be Duluth.  Here in the Twin Ports are watersheds are shared, our wastewater treatment plants both discharge into the St. Louis River, and our community members live, work, and play in this special place on the western edge of Lake Superior.  
Here it is -  Orb 365.  Maybe it could be called Twin-Pus (like an Octopus but with only two arms).
Stop by and wander over to the 'statue.'  A 3-D shape can be explored from all angles.  The issues relating to water also come from many angles.   As a reminder there will be a Water Film Fest with a dozen short films coming up January 29.  I've sent up film on assorted topics on water.  Some local productions by local filmmakers will be part of this program.  Free movies.  Bring yourself.  Bring a friend.  Thank you to those who participate in the City of Superior Environmental Services events.  It means a lot to learn more about water quality and how we make a difference.  All of us.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Orb365 Project Jan 16

Orb365 project is coming up this week!

This Friday afternoon - Jan 16 - will be the assemblage of 365 frozen water spheres (orbs).  Environmental Services invited the public to participate and fill balloons with water and made round frozen "bricks."   About 200 community members from youth to seniors are participating from a school, local organizations, businesses, county government and city government staff.  The sculpture to be built at Center City Park, near Belknap and Tower, will include all the spheres.  Thank goodness it's looking like the air temperature won't be quite a low numbers as the last week.  The sculpture will last how ever long it lasts.

Each sphere represents a day in the year that water is important. 

Thanks to all who are participating:
Cathedral School students
Senior Nutrition
Superior Fusion
Thirsty Pagan
CASDA youth
Fairlawn Mansion
Lake Superior NERR
Center for Muscle and Joint Therapy 
Geraldine Hughes, master gardener
Stephanie - Clerk - Douglas Co.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore store
Mac's Sport
Shannon's Stained Glassery
Superior Library staff
Cathy Casper
Long Family
and more!

Whether you participate in making the orbs for this event or make one or more at home.  Hold up the sphere and think of it as a water drop.  What journey will that drop make in a given year?   Inside us is part of the story.
We are also part of the effort to help keep it clean. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What is an outfall?

A stormwater outfall is defined as any “point at which storm water is discharged to waters of the state or to a storm sewer” (NR Code 216). Outfalls are further categorized by 2 types – major and minor. A major outfall is essentially one that is large in size and drains a large area of land. Minor outfalls are the remaining outfalls of various sizes and drainage areas.

Superior has over 100 stormwater outfalls (19 of them are major). Outfalls get screened every year during dry weather (at least 2 days after rainfall) to detect Illicit Discharge. Read more about Illicit Discharge from a previous blog post. Half of major outfalls get screened every year (2-year rotation) and 1/5 of minor outfalls are every year (5-year rotation). The trickiest part of outfall screening is FINDING the outfall. All outfalls have been mapped many years ago, but the terrain has changed since then . . . especially after the 2012 flood. Minor outfalls can be small (6” in diameter) and can be buried underground. Outfalls should be dry during periods of no rain so any flow from an outfall could potentially be an illicit discharge. In this past 2014 field season we did observe flow from outfalls, but they were all likely due to infiltration from natural water source or tap irrigation. Fortunately we didn’t notice any odd discharge. 

So if you noticed two strange people parked along the side of the road, looking in the nearby fields or staring at the storm drain off the road during the summer . . . they may be trying to find the outfall in the field or off the road.