June is Clean a Storm Drain month. It is also World Oceans Month. Keeping storm drains clean keeps trash and pollutants from entering our oceans and waterways that drain into the oceans.
If everyone does a little it adds up to a lot! Collective action matters.
Storm drains feed directly into our local lakes and rivers, unfiltered, so it’s important to keep them clear for cleaner and healthier waterways. June is an important time to keep the seeds, grass and sticks that are collecting on our streets and sidewalks out of our storm drains. While they might be “natural” debris they become pollution when large quantities hit the water, break down, and become food for algae.
Sweep Up and Clean Up. Be part of a community effort for clean water! Thank you.
What we do to our land, we do to our river” John Stein MPCA Commissioner
The Mississippi River, one of the longest rivers in the world begins in Minnesota and flows south into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River cuts the United States in half, into the east and the west. An investigative report by the Minneapolis Startribune.com. reveals the environmental threats to the Mississippi River caused by agricultural pollution and urban run-off. Many communities use the Mississippi River as their source of drinking water. If we are polluting this great river at the head waters what is the future for all of us, and for the wildlife that also uses this river? What is the future of the Gulf of Mexico as the Mississippi River carries pollution during its journey south? What will be the state of drinking water through the middle of the United States?
The storm drains on my street drain into the Mississippi. What we do on the land affects the Mississippi River. As a trained water steward, I am encouraging urban dwellers to manage the run-off from their yards in a smarter way. There is a new paradigm. Instead of getting the water off our land we are looking for ways to use water run-off by redirecting our gutters and down-spouts, and building rain gardens to capture the rainfall.
Not using chemicals, sweeping our sidewalks and streets, re-directing our down-spouts, building rain gardens, picking up trash, and recycling are just a few things the urban dweller can do to help the Mississippi River. Agricultural interests are another thing, and they need to do their part. Part 3 of this series focuses on farmers along the Chippewa River giving hope:
“Raising the amount of land planted in such perennials by just 10 percentage points — from 24 percent to 34 percent of the Chippewa watershed’s 1.3 million acres — would be enough to tip the river from polluted to clean.
Some 25 landowners now participate, and if they can prove its premise — that a farmer can make money without polluting the Chippewa — they could be a model for protecting threatened rivers all across the Midwest.” Read part 3 report here.
Fall Clean Up: Remember your curbs and gutters to protect our lakes and waterways. !
Did you know that just five bags of leaves and organic debris from streets and sidewalks could contain one pound of phosphorus? Over time, this can lead to the growth of hundreds of pounds of algae.
Cleaning up our curbs and gutters will prevent the highly nutrient-rich leaves and debris from entering rivers, lakes, and streams, and reduces pollution at the source, and improves water quality in our community. Fight water pollution in the street near your home today.
What to do?
— Sweep up leaves, sediment, trash and recyclable materials on our streets.
It has been a marvelous fall for both colors and weather, and now the clean up of falling leaves begins. Please DO NOT put your leaves in the street. It is hard work bagging up leaves, but leaves washing down the into the storm drains pollute the lakes and streams. Help keep the water we have as clean as we can. Many would give a lot to have our colorful leaves, lakes, and clean water! Also, leaves and trash can plug the drainage systems so the water will not drain from our streets.
Below is the City of Minneapolis Code on leaves:
Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Title 17:
427.270. – Leaves, grass on streets.
No person shall leave, or cause to be placed, any leaves, grass clippings or other organic debris on or along any public street or alley. (Code 1960, As Amend., § 583.380; Ord. of 6-14-74, § 1)
Water, Our most valuable resource! It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep our rivers, lakes and oceans clean! Living in the City of Lakes, Minneapolis, and the first major city draining streams into the Mississippi River, we take our relationship with water quality seriously. I have an easy way for those lucky enough to live along a stream, river or lake to create sustainable pollinator habitat and keep our waters clean.
The Minnehaha Creek, a few blocks from my home is often part of my walks, bird watching and litter pick up. This Creek runs through south Minneapolis, and flows into the Mississippi River. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul sit on the banks of the Mississippi River which divides them into two cities. Last weekend my neighborhood, boy scouts and high school students did a big clean up of the creek. Every piece of litter we picked up was one more piece kept out of the Mississippi River and possibly the Gulf of Mexico.
It is also important to keep pollutants from running into the creek. Cleaning storm drains, installing rain barrels, rain gardens, and redirecting drain spouts are initiatives we promote in trying to do our best for the mighty Mississippi.
What is the problem? I was sad to read that some that farmers and others that live along water ways are not following Minnesota law to keep our rivers clean. Minnesota has a state law that requires farmers and others to create small 50 foot buffers of grasses, trees or shrubs along creeks and rivers to keep pollutants from washing into the rivers and lakes.
What can you do? An easy way to create and maintain these buffers is to plant a 50 foot strip of native plants. Why native plants in these buffer zones? Native plants have deep root structures that keep the soil in place and filter contaminants. Planting buffers of natives would build habitat for our struggling bees and butterflies, and keep our streams and lakes nitrate and phosphorous free. It’s a win-win! Unfortunately, the buffer law isn’t enforced like it should be. Many don’t like government regulation, well then…. Take responsibility to protect of our water from pollutants.
What are some plants to use? I would recommend seeding the buffer area with native perennials that take care of themselves. Some of following natives would be great water filters and create bee and butterfly habitat: Golden Alexander, swamp milkweed, Culver’s root, bee balm, little blue stem, cone flowers, vervain, asters, golden rod and any native sedges. Purchase seeds from http://www.prairiemoon.com/ Native plants are almost maintenance free once they start growing. Mowing in the spring, just once a year, would keep out trees. Good Luck!