Septic Smart Week 2016 seal

Septic Smart Week

During SepticSmart Week (September 19 – 23, 2016) homeowners are reminded to pump their septic tank(s) every 2 years and protect their drain field from digging and damage by heavy vehicles and machinery.

One in five Anoka County homes have a well and septic on their property.  Maintaining a septic system is important because the sewage we put down the drain must be cleaned up before it gets into groundwater, wells and the water that we drink. Plus, a properly constructed and maintained septic system reduces pollution while recycling water back into our natural environment.

For most home and cabin wells, the nearest source of possible water pollution and dangerous bacteria is the septic system. Septic systems that are not maintained in good working order not only hurt the environment but risk your family’s health. Plus, you may be flushing thousands of dollars down the drain by damaging your septic system!

For information on septic systems see the Pumping and Maintenance of Septic Systems (YouTube video, 4:20). Septic Class: the Anoka County Extension Service is holding a septic system class  on November 3, 2016 and March 21, 2017. Contact the Extension Service office at 763-755-1280 for more information. Well Water Testing: For information on testing the safety of your home well go to the Anoka County Environmental Services Well Water Testing webpage or call 763-422-7063.

It isn’t difficult to maintain a septic system. Just like a wastewater treatment plant, homeowners have to keep their system in good condition to keep it working right. All it takes is regular maintenance.

Anoka County Community Development, with the cooperation of the MN Dept of Agriculture, is offering the Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan (AgBMP) Program. Since 2014, Anoka County assisted property owners to repair or replacing failing wells or septic systems. The AgBMP program has provided residents with over $1.1M to correct water quality issues in Anoka County. For more information call 763-323-5722.

Every Kid In Park - logo

4th graders: get your free pass to national parks

Parents, teachers, families, and children, explore together the millions of acres of national parks, historic structures, cultural artifacts, ancient forests, snow-capped mountains, and clear blue lakes. 4th graders and their families (or classrooms) get free access to hundreds of parks, lands and waters for the entire school year. To begin, access an Every Kid in a Park pass. The pass will give you free access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more!

Fourth-grade teachers can also download activities and print Free National Park passes for each student. The passes are good through August 31, 2017. Get yours today and plan a trip! For information, please contact via email or visit

Every Kid In A Park (2016-17)

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area extends 72 miles along the Mississippi River. Part of the park extends along the Anoka County border in Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley where there’s a dam and water treatment works draw water for people. You can learn about river ecosystems at several of the recreation area’s visitor centers, including an interpretive center in Minneapolis. A heron rookery lies just downstream. Across the river in St. Paul, the Mississippi River Visitor Center helps you explore the park and plan activities — from river walks and canoeing to biking and birding. In the winter, visitors often don snowshoes or cross-country skis to traverse river trails. Numerous points of interest lie just north and south of the Minneapolis area, including Hastings River Flats where a dam provides a perfect ecosystem for the eagles you can observe there.

Did you know: At Lake Itasca, where the Mississippi River begins, the river elevation is 1,475 feet above sea level. And is 841 feet at the Coon Rapids Dam. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.

Voyageurs National Park – A little more than a half-day drive from the Twin Cities, Voyageurs National Park lies due north near the Canadian border. Voyageur is a French word meaning “traveler,” and pertains especially to those involved with the North American fur trade in the 1700s. Hardy men paddled large canoes on connecting lakes and rivers on a route stretching from northwest Canada to Montreal and through what is now the park. Water covers almost 40 percent of the park. The Rainy Lake Visitor Center features a film and exhibits detailing the area’s history and voyageur routes. Many visitors rent houseboats and explore wilderness areas punctuated by many islands. Hikers may choose from nine trails, from short loop walks to back country excursions. On your hike, you may see black bear and white-tailed deer, and in winter may spot fox and otter on frozen ponds. Visitors with additional time can visit Grand Portage National Monument, a park that marks the spot where voyageurs and Native Americans made a “grand portage” between Lake Superior and inland waterways. The park is northwest of Duluth on Lake Superior.

2016-2017 Home school program is open for registration

Anoka Co Parks - Wargo Home School Programs

The Anoka County Parks and Recreation Home School Program begins in October. Wargo Nature Center’s professional naturalists provide quality environmental, recreational and natural history programs. Program sessions are designed 1st through 12th grades.  For 1st and 2nd grade with separate sessions for 3rd through 5th and 6th through 12th grades.

Two-hours sessions will be held the third Thursday of the month (October through May).  There will be a morning session (10:00 to 12:00 p.m.) and a afternoon session (2:00 to 4:00 p.m.).  The program starts promptly so please come early.

Pre-registration and pre-payment of $4/student (plus tax) is required.  Space is limited so be sure to use the online registration and sign up for the season.

Check out the Anoka County Parks 2016-17 Home School Brochure for more information or call the Wargo Nature Center at 651-429-8007.

Take the pledge to protect and preserve water

Take The Water Pledge

Governor Mark Dayton has announced a “Year of Water Action” Stewardship Pledge, which will last throughout the year. The pledge calls for Minnesotans to rethink how water impacts daily life and the lives of future generations.

About the Water Stewardship Pledge!  Governor Dayton’s “Year of Water Action” Stewardship Pledge, asks Minnesotans to affirm their commitment to:

  • Consider how water impacts daily life (what you’d do without water),
  • Use water efficiently and wisely in everyday activities,
  • Learn what you can do to protect and preserve water,
  • Factor water use efficiency and protection into choices, and
  • Talk about clean water protection and preservation.

To help you make and reach your pledge, you’ll get tips on “5 Things Minnesotans Can Do” and “5 Things Kids Can Do” to protect and preserve Minnesota’s water.

Minnesotans are encouraged to use social media to find additional tips and share their own stories on how they are preserving and protecting Minnesota’s water by using #WaterActionMN.

The “Year of Water Action” calls for local-community action

While local governments play an important role in protecting and conserving water quality, they can’t do it alone. Residents, communities, businesses and local organizations must decide to commit to water action. Most land is privately-owned and private water usage comprises the majority of consumption in the state. The conservation and protection of sustained local water resources benefits the community. The locally-lead efforts are essential to protecting and conserving water quality.

Throughout the next year, Governor Dayton will highlight ways to take action to preserve and protect water resources. Each month will focus on a different facet and important role water plays in our state’s health, economy and overall way of life.

Make a difference in your community by volunteering:

Drop in light

Comments on impaired waters accepted until Sept. 30, 2016

At the request of citizens and water organizations, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is extending the public comment period for the draft 2016 impaired waters list by 30 days. This means the agency will accept written comments through September 30.

A body of water is considered “impaired” if it fails to meet one or more water quality standards. Minnesota water quality standards protect lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands by defining how much of a pollutant (bacteria, nutrients, turbidity, mercury, etc.) can be in water before it is no longer drinkable, swimmable, fishable, or useable in other, designated ways (called “beneficial uses”). Waters that do not meet their designated uses because of water quality standard violations are impaired. Monitoring suggests that about 40% of Minnesota’s lakes and streams are impaired for conventional pollutants, which is comparable to impairment rates in other states.

Part of Anoka County displayed in the Impaired Waters Viewer (IWAV)

Part of Anoka County displayed in the Impaired Waters Viewer (IWAV)

The list represents an assessment of how well lakes and streams support fishing, swimming, and other beneficial uses. Water bodies that fail to meet standards are considered “impaired.” This assessment is mandated by federal law and requires cleanup studies for each impaired water body.

Problems in Minnesota waters include fish and bugs at risk in hundreds of water bodies, high levels of phosphorus that cause algae, bacteria than can make water unsafe for swimming, and mercury that limits consumption of fish because of its toxicity. The draft list totals a little more than 4,600 impairments with 582 new listings this year.

For more information see Assessing and listing impaired waters.

Waterspot Droplet

Waterspot on Smart Irrigation & Healthy Lawns

(UPDATE 8/21/2016) StarTribune report Study seeks best ways to curb surge in summer watering.

It doesn’t make sense to water the lawn during a rainstorm. And common sense tells us that sprinkling the lawn in the morning after an overnight storm is… well dumb and wasteful. If you water your lawn with a hose you probably know that. But, if you have an in-ground automatic irrigation system – does the system know that?

Smart Irrigation Controller

Smart Irrigation Controller

Homes and businesses use three times the water in the summer as winter – to keep lawns green. The University of Minnesota Extension Service – Lawns and Turfgrass Management Program has determined that water is often wasted on lawns. However, by understanding your grass plant, and sprinkling efficiently, you can conserve water and develop grass that is healthy and resistant to diseases and drought.

Many irrigation systems are controlled by a timer. A timed system will irrigate lawn and bushes whether it needs it or not. If the turf is overwatered it will runoff onto sidewalks, into street gutters and down storm sewers, wasted water.

Smart Irrigation.  Minnesota Law requires that all automatic operated irrigation systems have a controller that does not irrigate during rain or when the lawn has enough water.  Programmed and properly operating Smart Irrigation makes sense for the homeowners and property owners that want a great property, vibrant community and sustained local water resources.

WaterSense (logo)WaterSense (an EPA partnership program) seeks to protect the future of our water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products and services. WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers, act like a thermostat for your sprinkler system telling it when to turn on and off, use local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on your property. Smart Irrigation controllers allow watering schedules to better match plants’ water needs. With proper installation, programming, and maintenance, Smart Irrigation controllers and systems irrigate turf and landscape efficiently while using local water resources in a sustainable way.

Smart Irrigation (broadcast sprinkler)The Irrigation Association is a national organization of irrigation companies and professionals that are dedicate to efficient irrigation and to long-term sustainability of water resources for future generations.

To see if your irrigation system is smart enough to meet Minnesota’s standards and is programmed properly to use water in a sustainable way, contact your local irrigation or landscape professional.

Too much watering caused the Kentucky Blue Grass to be replace by Yellow Nutsedge (weed) that loves soggy soil.

Over-watering can cause Yellow Nutsedge (noxious weed)  to replace Kentucky Blue Grass.

DNR Project WET (logo)

Water Festival Learning for the Classroom & National Art Challenge

Attention elementary and environmental educators. The Metro Area Children’s Water Festival is offering a special WET (Water Education for Teachers) workshop to provide teachers with the hands-on program of getting students “immersed” in water knowledge (KARE11 report). This indoor/outdoor workshop is designed for teachers, naturalists and other educators interested in the CWF curriculum and activities. Participants will develop and expand their lessons using the WET programmed materials and experienced presenters and water festival organizers.

  • When: August 2, 2016 (9am to 4pm)
  • Where: Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (2522 Marshall St NE, Mpls, MN 55418)
  • Who should participate: elementary teachers, education coordinators, 4H leaders, park naturalists, community education specialists, and non-formal educators.

The annual Metro Area Children’s Water Festival holds a lottery drawing in the spring to select 44 fourth-grade classes to participate. Sadly, many classes are not selected. This workshop will provide another opportunity for teachers and educators to prepare for the 2016 CWF or to deliver water lessons, facts and answers inside the classroom.

For more information see the Registration Announcement or call Madeline Seveland (Carver County Watershed Management Organization) at 952-361-1829. Certificate or 12 CEUs or 1 graduate college credit is provided to those who complete the training.

Wyland National Art Challenge “Water Is Life” Educational leaders and teachers are invited to take part in the 4th Annual Wyland National Art Challenge (Oct 1. -Dec 1). Sign up before Aug. 15 to win 1 of 100 free mural canvases for your classroom to participate in a nationwide environmental mural and individual art contest with the theme of conservation. To enter your class, simply fill out the form on the Wyland National Art Challenge website. Canvas winners will be announced on that site.

Wyland National Art Challenge

Waterspot Droplet

Waterspot on Anoka County Waste Management

With the growth of Twin Cities in the early 1900s, solid waste became a municipal concern. In many cases a “town dump” was established to bring order to the growing volume of residential waste that often posed a neighborhood sanitation and public health concern. “Burn barrels” were a way to reduce the volume of waste collecting in yards and hauled to the town dump.

After World War II, Anoka County communities experienced decades of rapid growth and a shift to disposable products. In 1973, Anoka County established a Solid Waste Management Ordinance. As a result, dumps were replaced by “sanitary landfills” regulated by Anoka County Environmental Services to reduce potential threats to human health and natural resources.

The growth of chemicals used in industrial processes created concern with hazardous wastes. In 1985 Anoka County established its Hazardous Waste Management Ordinance. Businesses and institutions are required to dispose of their hazardous wastes in a way that does not damage natural resources or pollute water.

In 1988 Anoka County established the Recycling and Resource Solutions Unit (originally Integrated Waste Management) to coordinate recycling and waste reduction with municipal and business partners. The trend from burying garbage to recycling and sustainable use continues:

For more information about recycling opportunities check out the Recycling and Disposal Directory or see the Residential Recycling Opportunities person in your community. For recycling answers call Anoka County Recycling & Resource Solution at 763-323-5790.

In the 1960s, a backyard "burn barrel" was used to reduce the volume of garbage collected at homes and waste hauled to the town dump.

The 1960s backyard “burn barrel.”

Water saving strategies for lawns

Irrigation - lawns, golf courses, and crops

Three times more water is used during the summer than in the winter, and much (often too much) is used outdoors watering lawns. Because you can sprinkle your lawn on odd or even days doesn’t mean that you should. Grass is a hearty plant that thrives with as little as one-half inch of rain each week in the summer. If you have an irrigation system or portable sprinklers, you can maintain a healthy lawn without wasting water:

1. Pay attention to the weather

During a Minnesota summer with may see heavy periods of rain followed by dry days. Adjust irrigation practices accordingly. Operate your irrigation controller in manual so that you are not adding water that is not needed and might drown the grass roots.

2. Select turf grasses that require less water and can tolerate drought. 

The Choice of grass species will impact irrigation requirements. Traditional turf grass species include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and tall fescue. The fescue species offer the best drought tolerance potential.

3. Adjust irrigation programs to conserve water 

To encourage rooting and drought tolerance, lawns should be irrigated infrequently (one time or less per week) with a sufficient volume of water (up to 0.5 inches). Set irrigation to sprinkle in the morning because daytime irrigation is lost by evaporation and wind deflection.

4. Use water saving technologies 

Rain sensors connected to irrigation controllers are vital to conserving water. There’s no need to water the lawn during a rainstorm. Conduct an irrigation audit of your system.

For more information see the Watering Practices webpage of the University of Minnesota Extension Service – Turfgrass Science Program.

Algae on downwind lake shore (MPCA photo)

Hot days cause algal blooms in lakes and ponds

When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for Minnesota lakes to produce harmful algal blooms (HAB). Most algae are harmless, but under the right conditions, certain types of algae can pose health risks. People and animals may become sick if they come into contact with or ingest affected water. In extreme cases, dogs and other animals have died after exposure to lake water containing toxic blue-green algae.

High rainfall results in nutrient-rich runoff entering our lakes, which fuels algae growth. As sunlight increases and temperatures warm, we can anticipate blooms of blue-green algae on many of our lakes,” said Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) lakes expert Steve Heiskary.

There are many types of blue-green algae found everywhere, but thrive particularly in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes and ponds. Often blown toward downwind shorelines, it is under these conditions that humans and animals come in contact with blue-green algae and where the risk of algal toxins is greatest.

Not all blue-green algae are toxic, and there is no visual way to predict whether a blue-green algal bloom contains toxins harmful to humans or animals. But harmful blooms are sometimes said to look like pea soup, green paint, or floating mats of scum, and they often have a bad odor. “You don’t have to be an expert to recognize an algae bloom that might be harmful,” Heiskary said. “If it looks bad and smells bad, don’t take a chance. Stay out, and keep children and pets away from the water until the bloom subsides.

For more information about harmful algae blooms see the MPCA Blue Green Algae fact sheet or call the MPCA at 651-296-6300.

If experiencing illness, contact a medical professional. In addition, people are encouraged to report human health effects to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Foodborne-Waterborne Illness Hotline at 1-877-366-3455. To learn more about how algae blooms affect health, visit the MDH’s Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) webpage.

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