2013 Top Ten Water Protection Tips
Thanks for checking out our Top Ten Water Protection Tips — simple things we all can do to help protect our shared water resources. From drinking water quality and wildlife health, to preserving recreation opportunities and the environment overall, making these tips part of our everyday habits will add up to healthier water for everyone.
Cigarette Butts Are Litter Too
A cigarette butt dropped to the ground seems insignificant. But follow that butt as it’s carried off by rain into storm drains and eventually to streams and rivers. It now adds up to a big impact on the places we live: In fact, 32% of litter at storm drains is tobacco products.
Cigarette butt litter creates blight. It accumulates in gutters, and outside doorways and bus shelters. It’s the number one most littered item anywhere. Increasing amounts of litter in a business district, along river fronts, or recreation areas create a sense that no one cares, leading to more community disorder and crime.
Cigarette butts don’t disappear. About 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment.
Filters are harmful to waterways and wildlife. About 18% of litter, traveling primarily through storm water systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways. Nearly 80% of aquatic debris comes from land-based sources. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and aquatic life when they mistake filters for food. Cigarette butts are the number one most littered item in America.
Things you can do if you smoke: (If you don’t smoke, great. Check out the other 9 things you can do to protect our water)
- Use an ashtray as it was intended and empty your car ashtray in the trash, not on the street. The purpose is to keep the butts off the street.
- If you’re in the car and it doesn’t have an ashtray, use a soda can until you can properly dispose of the butt.
- If you see butts on the street, sweep them up. Never use a hose to spray them down the storm drain.
- When possible, keep a mini trash bag in the car. This will not only help you remember to properly dispose of your butts in an ashtray, but it’s the correct way to dispose of your trash.
- Always use an ashtray to properly dispose of your cigarette butts. If you don’t, the cigarette butt you throw on the ground today may end up swimming next to you at the beach this summer.
For more information please check out: http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=CLPP_landing
What’s Wrong with Dog Waste
An inescapable part of dog ownership is the production of dog waste and the problem of what to do with it. If dog waste is allowed to remain where it is deposited, it will either decompose where it is or get washed away. In either case, it can be harmful.
If the waste remains where Fido deposits it, it can make people or pets sick. Pet waste carries disease-causing organisms such as E. coli, Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Salmonella. Dog waste is a common carrier of heartworms, hookworms, rounds worms and tapeworms. When deposited on a lawn, the eggs of certain roundworms and other parasites can linger in the soil for years. Children are particularly at risk, since they often play in the dirt and put things in their mouths or eyes. Even a small amount of dog waste contains millions of fecal coliform bacteria, which are known to cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness and serious kidney disorders.
If the dog waste gets washed away by rain, sprinklers or snow melt, it will probably eventually enter our lakes or rivers. Storm drain contents do not get treated and it ultimately ends up in our rivers and lakes. Once the dog waste is in lakes and rivers it can be a major source of bacteria and excess nutrients. The excess nutrients can feed algal blooms and the bacteria can make swimmers sick. Giardia is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in the United States and can be passed into surface water by an infected dog.
Always carry a plastic bag when you walk your dog. Use the bag as a glove – turn it inside out around the waste, scoop it up and seal the bag. Good ways to dispose of it are either flushing it down a toilet or disposing of it in a trash can. You can also bury it in the yard by digging a hole or trench that is about 5 inches deep, away from vegetable garden and away from any water bodies.
Don’t compost pet waste. The compost pile may not get hot enough to kill disease-causing organisms.
Try to never touch the pet waste with bare hands and always wash your hands with warm, soapy water after dealing with pet waste.
Not picking up your pet waste is not only discourteous to anyone else who happens along, it is also harmful to the environment and dangerous for people and pets.
Trash and Dumpster Management
- Keep dumpsters, trashcans and recycling bins covered, except when filling or emptying. Schedule pickups as frequently as required to keep trash from holding the cover open and overflowing. Open lids allow contact with rainwater, which dissolves and transports contaminants into the storm water system. Open lids also invite birds and other animals to spread trash around.
- Do not put loose liquid oils or greases into the trash. Place these substances in a sealed container prior to disposal.
- If using a compactor, ensure that there is no liquid leaking out onto the pavement where it will come into contact with storm water.
- Check to ensure the dumpster or trashcan are in good condition, with no holes and has little to no accumulation of grime. These containers should also be resistant to leaking by having a sealed drain plug. When necessary, contact the sanitation company to get a replacement container.
- Clean trashcans in a designated area with a connection to the sanitary sewer. This could be a mop sink or an area that has a floor drain. Do not use a drain without knowing whether it flows to the sanitary sewer or storm drain. Confirm where it drains before using to ensure proper disposal of liquids. Never discharge wash water to storm drains as this has the potential to contaminate our waterways.
- Designate an area for trash collection that is away from storm drains. This allows leaks and spills at the trash collection area to be contained before reaching the storm drains.
- Consider using a locking dumpster or placing it in an enclosed, locked area to prevent illegal dumping.
Recycle as much as possible.
Contact your trash hauler, or check with your local authorities for more information on recycling.
These best management practices help prevent pollution from going down the storm drains and into our waterways. Remember, only rain down the storm drain!
Eliminate grass clippings going into the street
Did you know that grass clipping are nature’s way to fertilize your lawn? Grass clippings contain essential nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that feed plant growth. When grass clippings are blown into the streets or left on sidewalks, they are carried down into storm sewers and deposited directly into local lakes, rivers and streams. Just like in your lawn, grass clippings become a nutrient source in your favorite lake, river or stream increasing algae growth. It is estimated that one bushel of fresh grass clippings can contain 0.1 lb. of phosphorus, enough to produce 50 pounds of algae if it finds its way to a lake or river. You can make a significant impact on pollution coming from your streets and on the health of your water resources. Sweep up or blow grass clippings that are found on the street, sidewalks, or in your driveway and place them back on the lawn or compost them. Grass clippings make a wonderful fertilizer for your lawn at no extra costs to your pocketbook.
Establish a vegetative pond buffer
You can keep stormwater ponds functioning properly by avoiding mowing within ten feet of the pond’s edge. Mowed grass around stormwater ponds add more maintenance and results in fewer pollutants being removed. A buffer provides a “catch area” that traps and filters pollutants before entering the stormwater pond. When possible use deep rooting native plants, but if the area is already planted with grass stop mowing the buffer and let nature take care of the rest. Remember, the wider the buffer the cleaner the water.
Be Green, help keep our Stromwater Ponds Clean!
It may be tempting to dump your leaves, grass clippings or other yard waste into a stormwater pond but FIGHT THE URGE. Although it may seem insignificant, what you do with your grass clippings, leaves, and other yard waste can make a difference in the quality of our surface water. Yard waste, when placed into our stormwater ponds causes water pollution. FIGHT THE URGE. Even though dumping your yard waste into the stormwater pond is often the quickest and easiest way to finish up your yard work. FIGHT THE URGE.
Here’s what you can do:
- Not sure if you have a stormwater pond in the back yard? Contact your city or county planning and zoning office to find out.
- Keep grass clippings and leaves on the lawn and out of stormwater ponds. As grass and leaves decompose, they produce phosphorus, the nutrient that promotes algae, which decreases oxygen in water and causes scum and odor.
- Mulch grass clippings and leaves or bag and dispose of yard waste.
- Point your lawn mower away from the street and driveway to prevent yard waste from entering the catch basins. Every storm pipe leads to a body of water that will be negatively impacted by such materials.
- If you have fallen to the Urge and placed yard waste into a stormwater pond, don’t feel bad and go in and remove it.
- Compost your yard waste outside of the stormwater pond.
- Haul the yard waste to your local compost facility.
- Create or increase a vegetative buffer between your mowed lawn and the stormwater pond.
- Plant Native grasses and wildflowers in your buffer between your lawn and the stormwater pond.
Tips on enhancing your stormwater ponds landscaping to attract wildlife and improve water quality: http://basineducation.uwex.edu/southeastfox/pdf/Open%20Space%20Files/stormwater_ponds.pdf
Green Lawn Care
The University of Minnesota has come out with new guidelines for taking care of Minnesota lawns. For the last 20 to 30 years the University of Minnesota Extension Service advised that the most important fertilizer application is in the end of October/early November. Usually this coincided with the last mowing of the year. Recent research has shown that fertilizer applied in November does not get fully taken up by the grass. Instead, much of the nitrogen from the fertilizer runs off the surface of the soil or leaches into groundwater.
New research has found that better uptake of nitrogen happens if it is applied around Labor Day.
Healthy, fertilized lawns can benefit soil and water quality, provided that fertilizer recommendations are followed. Well-fed grass develops dense roots that hold the soil, preventing it from running off yards and polluting the water. “Homeowners sometimes think fertilizer is bad for water quality, but our research shows that’s not always true,” explains Brian Horgan, Extension turf grass specialist. “The health and density of the lawn was what made the difference, and good fertilization practices create healthier, denser lawns.”
Healthy turf grass can improve surface water by stabilizing soil against water and wind erosion and reducing runoff. It can improve groundwater by filtering water as it passes through. Lawns that contribute to slowing runoff and filtering water mean cleaner lakes, rivers and drinking water for Minnesota.
Nitrogen is the mineral element used in the largest quantity by grass. One of the roles nitrogen plays is in stimulating shoot growth which aids in spring green up and helps promote recovery from injury and environmental stress. Shoot growth is often stimulated at the expense of root growth, however, so a modest use of nitrogen fertilizer is actually sometimes healthier for the plant.
When and how you should fertilize depends on whether or not you irrigate your lawn and the quality of the soil. The following chart shows the recommended rates and times to apply fertilizer. A “full” application is one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. The first number on the bag of fertilizer is the percentage of nitrogen it contains. A 10-0-5 fertilizer would contain 10% nitrogen so you would need to apply 10 pounds of fertilizer to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.
You need to know how good your soil is. Good soil has at least 3.1 percent organic matter. To check the amount of organic matter in your soil, you can get it tested through the University of Minnesota’s testing lab at soiltest.cfans.umn.edu.
Irrigated lawns tend to need more fertilizer because the water moves nitrogen quickly through the soil and because rapidly growing grass absorbs fertilizer more quickly.
When fertilizing in late summer or early fall, choose a fertilizer that delivers about half of its nitrogen in slow-release form. It might be called slow-release, water-insoluble or controlled-release. For early spring application, a fertilizer with 20 to 25 percent slow-release nitrogen will be a little cheaper and get the job done.
It is important to remember that fertilizer is not the only means by which our lawns receive nitrogen inputs. Grass clippings that are left on the lawn will supplement the lawn with the equivalent of about one complete fertilizer application per year.
The following chart assumes that grass clippings are left on the lawn.
Keep a lid on it!
Description: Floating trash and debris have become significant pollutants, especially in lakes, streams, and rivers where large amounts of trash and plastic debris can concentrate in small areas. Floating trash detracts from the aesthetics of a landscape. It poses a threat to wildlife and human health (e.g., choking hazards to wildlife and bacteria to humans). Trash and debris also can clog the intake valves of boat engines, which can lead to expensive repairs.
What You Can Do:
- Secure all bags and use twine to secure loose trash for curbside trash collection.
- Make sure lid is secure and container is not over full.
- Watch the weather: If there strong winds in the forecast, wait until just before the truck comes to bring trash can to the curb.
- Volunteer in your neighborhood to help prevent and cleanup litter—from cigarette butts to illegal dumps.
Benefits: The benefits of trash removal are considerable. Better trash management increases the aesthetics of the landscape and reduces health and safety threats to both wildlife and humans. In addition, less litter from individuals can save the community money in structural-runoff control maintenance costs. Effective recycling programs can reduce the quantity of waste being dumped in landfills and encourage the reuse of raw materials.
Read Product Labels
DO NOT buy products with Triclosan listed as an ingredient
Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent added to a wide variety of household products including liquid hand soap, dish soap, toothpaste/toothbrushes, deodorant, fabrics, toys and cosmetics. While additional research is required, numerous studies indicate it is becoming an issue for human health and the environment. We can all make a difference by reading labels and purchasing products without Triclosan listed as an ingredient.
Risks – Studies indicate that there are three primary risks associated with triclosan:
- River Environment.As triclosan moves through the wastewater treatment process and into the river, it is exposed to sunlight and chemicals such as chlorine, which can cause it to degrade into potentially harmful dioxins and other carcinogens. These contaminants pose a risk to aquatic life, and have been shown to interfere with the thyroid system and have other endocrine-disrupting effects in laboratory animals.
- Health. Humans can be exposed to triclosan via consumer products through skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation, as well as through contaminated drinking water. Human triclosan exposure is now common; a recent survey found the chemical present in the urine of 75% of Americans over age five, and overall levels of triclosan in the U.S. population increased by 50% between 2004 and 2009.
- Bacterial Resistance. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends against using antibacterial products in most home applications because they may contribute to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria.
Triclosan is used in a wide variety of household products and enters the environment primarily through the municipal wastewater treatment system. While wastewater treatment systems remove most of the triclosan, some of it is discharged directly to the river. Wastewater treatment byproducts are sometimes spread on agricultural fields for use as fertilizer, exposing nearby waters to triclosan-contaminated runoff, sometimes months after its application. In addition, triclosan can be released to surface waters and groundwater through wastewater from septic systems.
Consumers should follow the recommendations of both the Minnesota Department of Health and the American Medical Association by avoiding the use of triclosan products for household applications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have found that household’s use of antibacterial soap provides NO health benefits over plain soap and water.
For more information on products that contain triclosan, visit: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pesticides/factsheets/Triclosan%20cited.pdf
- NPS Mississippi River ForumPresentation: “From Triclosan to Dioxins”: http://www.nps.gov/miss/naturescience/rfmonthly.htm
- State of the River Report: http://stateoftheriver.com/state-of-the-river-report/
- FDA What Consumers Should Know: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm205999.htm
- MDH guidance: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/risk/guidance/dwec/triclosanglance.html
- Triclosan Factsheet: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/risk/guidance/dwec/sumtriclosan.pdf
- Beyond Pesticides factsheet with list of products containing Triclosans: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pesticides/factsheets/Triclosan%20cited.pdf
- EPA Triclosan Facts: http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm
Information used for the factsheet was obtained from the “State of the River Report” produced by the National Parks Service and the Friends of the Mississippi River.
Residential Erosion Control
Planning a yard project this year? It is important to keep all loose soils on your property for the duration of the project. Exposed soils are highly susceptible to water erosion and can be washed onto sidewalks and streets. Ultimately, the dirty water makes its way down catch basins during rainfall or snow melt and ends up in our waterways. Suspended in water, sediment can reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches aquatic plants and may damage fish gills. Sediment can also lead to elevated mercury levels in fish and increased water temperature.
The best management practices below should be followed to help keep our waterways healthy.
Before & During the Project:
- Installation of sediment logs or silt fences to pond and filter storm water. This allows the sediment to settle out, allowing only clear water to enter the storm drain system.
- Inlet protection devices should also be installed in any catch basins that may receive runoff water from the project site.
- Periodic cleaning and maintenance is necessary for these devices to function properly. Typically, these devices should be inspected and maintained within 24 hours of a rain event.
After the Project:
- Homeowners should permanently stabilize the soil on their properties by planting grass seed, laying sod or spreading mulch. This should be done as soon as the final grading is finished.
- Typically, the temporary measures may be removed from the project site once vegetative coverage is at 70% or greater. Check local erosion and sediment control requirements specific to your area.