October has been spectacular on the south shore of Lake Superior. The lake is a deep rich blue and everything on shore is bright gold. The red of the maples has evolved into gold, blending with the yellow birch and aspen. The entire outdoors reflects a pleasant gold hue.
Most of the flowers have turned to seeds, and migrating birds have gone south. All the remaining wildlife is getting ready for winter: Chickadees, nuthatches and flying squirrels empty our bird feeder. Chipmunks and squirrels are eating, digging, and being stalked by a hunting coyote. The adult eagles are paired up and travel as a twosome. The world must look awesome from their favorite pine tree overlooking the big lake, and when they soar above the gold-red landscape.
Yesterday I was at the public library in Superior, Wisconsin. I was impressed with an educational display by Wisconsin Coastal Management . They had a large display of trash that a student group had picked up from a one day beach trash pick-up from a local Lake Superior beach. Ideas from the trash collected created an educational poster for the public. Plastic breaks into tiny bits, is eaten by our fish, and probably will last hundreds of years, maybe forever!
“Today, Minnesota set the strongest rules in the nation to protect pollinators from pesticides,” said Lex Horan of Pesticide Action Network. “The plan will help ensure that bee-harming pesticides won’t be used unnecessarily, and it lays the groundwork for reducing the use of neonicotinoid seed coatings. This decision is rooted in the resounding scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are harmful to pollinators. It’s past time for state and federal decisionmakers to take action to restrict the use of bee-harming pesticides, and today Minnesota did just that.” Read the whole story here. Another story from Minnesota Public Radio.
The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, and the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!
I would add several more:
1. Rain gardens are excellent for capturing harmful water runoff.
2. Keep leaves and trash out of streets and storm drains-Adopt a storm drain!
3. Never use cleaning products or hand sanitizer with triclosan.
4. Reduce all plastic use–If you must use plastic bags and bottles, be sure you recycle them. 5. Pick up all liter.
This morning I was walking a bridge crossing the Big Blue River in Nebraska. Never have I seen a river so full of sediment! The name “Big Blue” was full of irony for me. I know many of the local water sources in this area of Nebraska are poisoned with nitrates, and children should not be drinking this water. Farming areas of Iowa and Minnesota are having the same water pollution problem. The major source of nitrates are fertilizers on farm fields, and farmers are not regulated by the Clean Water Act. We are all guilty of dirty water and can do much better at protecting our waters. The run-off from our houses, driveways and roads are major contributors to our polluted lakes rivers and streams. Farmers need to better, but so do all of us!
10 actions you can take to improve lakes, rivers and streams from Hennepin County.
When it rains, the storm water that runs off driveways, lawns, houses and parking lots can carry pollutants like oil, paint and chemicals down storm sewers and into nearby lakes, streams and rivers. By taking the following easy, no-cost or low-cost steps, you can have a big impact on reducing runoff and protecting our water resources and wildlife habitat. Hennepin County
1. Use your runoff
You can keep water in your yard and reduce runoff by directing downspouts onto your lawn or garden or into a rain barrel. Rainwater is free and naturally “soft,” so it is ideal to use in watering your lawn or garden.
2. Don’t rake grass clippings and leaves into the street
Leave them on your lawn, use them for compost, or bag them up. Grass clippings and leaves left in the street end up in the storm sewer, where they are carried to nearby lakes and streams. Clippings and leaves contain phosphorus and other nutrients that feed algae and other aquatic plants. This can cause excess algae growth that can negatively impact other plants and wildlife and can be unsafe for pets.
3. Scoop the poop
Grab a bag when you grab the leash and pick up after your pets. Pet waste left on the ground can be washed into lakes and rivers with rainwater and runoff. Pet waste contains bacteria that can cause illness in humans and animals.
4. Use chemicals wisely
Read and follow the label instructions when using herbicides and pesticides. Use the minimum amount needed to control the problem. If you can, consider using alternative or natural remedies to control weeds and pests, or remove the problem by hand.
5. Fertilize smart
Sweep up any fertilizer that spills onto hard surfaces. Excess fertilizer washes away into nearby lakes or streams where it can feed algae, causing rapid growth known as algae blooms. Algae blooms stress fish and wildlife and make swimming and fishing unpleasant or impossible.
6. Keep a healthy lawn
A healthy, vigorous lawn needs less watering, fewer chemicals and less maintenance. Aerate your lawn periodically to loosen the soil. Seed bare patches to prevent erosion and soil loss. Mow at a higher setting. Grass mowed to a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches develops deeper, healthier roots and has a competitive advantage over weeds.
7. Plant a rain garden
Rain gardens are depressions planted with a diverse mix of native wildflowers and grasses
designed to collect rainwater and allow it to soak into the soil. This will reduce the water running off your property into storm sewers.
8. Replace turf with native plants
Swap some of your high-maintenance lawn for low-maintenance native ground cover, plants or grasses. Many native plants develop deeper root structures than turf grass, which reduces runoff by allowing for better water infiltration.
9. Reduce your footprint
Replace some pavement – such as a walk, patio or driveway – with pavers or pervious pavement. The porous surface will allow water to seep through.
10. Adopt a storm drain
Keep neighborhood storm drains free of leaves, seeds and grass clippings. Storm drains are directly connected to nearby water bodies. Water running into storm drains can carry with it anything dumped nearby including leaves, grass clippings, soil, oil, paint and chemicals. Keeping storm drains clear will protect the water quality of nearby lakes, streams and rivers.
***If you own property on a lake, pond, river or stream you should install a tree and plant buffer strip to keep pollutants from running into the water.
As you drive into Michigan you are greeted with an advertising campaign,”Welcome to Pure Michigan” with images of clean pure water. Could the millions spent on this campaign have been put into actually keeping their water clean? Even when Governor Rick Snyder’s administration knew the water in Flint was bad, they told residents it was safe.
Why has telling lies become OK? Why do officials entrusted with our safety make stupid uninformed decisions? Why don”t they get the big picture? Do they become blinded by power and campaign donations? Do they understand the word trust? What needs to change?
No one should be allowed to mess with water or food safety. As a public, we trust that the best decisions are made for our safety. However, holding elected officials accountable is tough. They know most of us aren’t paying attention and think they can do almost anything without being penalized. Saving money in Flint, Michigan became more important than using good sense . Officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, should all be forced to resign and be banned from government jobs in the future. The fact that lead polluted water flowed into the homes in Michigan in the year 2015-2016 is astonishing.
I would always be wary of candidates that claim they will “cut your taxes”. Yes, they cut taxes on the backs of the most vulnerable. In Flint, Michigan officials were more interested in saving money than the health of their constituents. The only good thing about this situation is that they have been caught. Unfortunately, caught after harming of the health and future of Flint’s children and residents. Below is an excellent segment from the PBS Newshour about what happened in Flint:
Pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who called attention to the elevated lead levels in Flint’s children, explained to NPR how the city’s water came to be contaminated:
“The city of Flint under state-appointed emergency management, almost bankrupt … switched their water source from Detroit, which was fresh Great Lakes water source, which we’ve been using for over 50 years, to the local Flint River to save money.
“And that local Flint River was innately more corrosive than the Great Lakes water source. And the critical corrosion inhibitor, which is mandatory for all drinking water systems to use … was not added to that water.
“So you had a more corrosive water source without the corrosion control added to it, going into an aging infrastructure with a lot of lead plumbing. That was a perfect storm for that lead to leach out of the pipes into the drinking water and into the bodies of children.”
Have you ever thought of how strange it is that businesses, that dislike government, also depend on government to pick up their waste? Plastic bottles and packaging are a perfect example of this. Businesses should be responsible for all the waste they generate. I was thrilled to be at a park in Michigan this weekend to see these recycling containers. We need more of this! Coca-Cola also has recycle containers, but they are stingy with them. I have tried to place them in quick stop convenience stores and gas stations without much luck! All convenience stores in Duluth, Minnesota offer recycle containers because of a government program. It is a fabulous program, but it should be the responsibility of business.