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 of see Residential Recycling Opportunities in your community. For 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.

U of M Turfgrass Program

Take the water survey

We need water to drink, flush, wash, and we need water to “water” our lawns and gardens. Some say we have all the water we need today, tomorrow and forever. Or do we?

The University of Minnesota Extension Service is surveying Twin Cities residents in the growing metropolitan area to learn about our water using habits. The results of the survey will help us understand how our attitude toward water may affect the sustainability of this valuable resource.

Survey participants are eligible to win a $50 VISA gift card.


For more information go to the Extension Service Watering Practices webpage or call Jonah Reyes (UofM Research Scientist, 651-260-4808, reye0033@umn.edu)


Healthy Safe Swimming Week 2016

Make a healthy splash to share the fun, not the germs

May 23–29, 2016, the week before Memorial Day, marks the start of outdoor swimming and the annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. Swimming is one of the most popular sports activities in the United States. Pools, waterparks, hot tubs/spas, splash pads, and water playgrounds are great places to have fun, be active, or just relax. Have fun while you swim but know how to stay healthy and safe while enjoying the water!

The best way to prevent recreational water illnesses is to keep germs out of the water in the first place. Swimmers can protect themselves and others by following these six tips:

  • Don’t swallow pool or lake water.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside or beachside.

We are working closely with our licensed public pool operators to ensure the health and safety of swimmers,” said Angela Dabu, Environmental Health Specialist with Anoka County Environmental Services. “Swimmers can do their part by following the six tips to keep the water healthy on those hot and busy days at the pool.”

To report a suspected waterborne illness, call the Minnesota Department of Health’s Foodborne and Waterborne Illness Hotline at 1-877-FOODILL. Contact Anoka County Environmental Health – Licensed Pools & Spas (763-422-7063) to report a concern with a County licensed public pool.

Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Program

Drinking water quality reports are available

Annual Water Report. Each year, community water suppliers prepare a report on the results of water quality tests of their water system in the previous year. The 2015 water quality reports summarize testing results for Jan 1 to December 31. The reports describe where the drinking water comes from and what’s in it. Groundwater, from wells, is the source of drinking water for community water suppliers in Anoka County (except Columbia Heights and Hilltop).

Municipal Wellhead Protection.  Community water suppliers are implementing wellhead protection programs to manage potential sources of soils and groundwater pollution near their wells.  Residents and businesses within a Drinking Water Supply Management Area (DWSMA) – near municipal wells – are in a unique position to protect the source of the community’s drinking water – the groundwater below. Find out if you are in a DWSMA by going to the Anoka County Wellhead Protection DWSMA map application.

Sealing Unused (Abandoned) Wells. Municipal wells are typically deep wells that use the natural protection of geologic layers to prevent pollution from reaching their community well. If old unused wells are near the municipal wells – pollution may pass through the natural protective layers down an unsealed well – contaminating the drinking water for the community. To learn more contact your municipal water utility department and view the Sealing Your Unused Well video (MDH, YouTube; 4:36)

Do you have a home well? Anoka County Environmental Services recommends that you test the safety of your drinking water annually. Go to the Well Water Testing webpage for more information.

Customers that want a copy of their water system’s annual report (normally published before July) may check the utility website or request a copy from their water supplier:

Clean.Drain.Dispose.Dry for our lakes and a vibrant outdoor economy

Protect our waters by following aquatic invasive species (AIS) standards

AIS media event, Mississippi, Hastings Access

CLEAN all visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels, and other prohibited invasive species from watercraft, trailers, and water-related equipment before leaving any water access or shoreland.

DRAIN water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait containers, motor) and drain bilge, live-well and bait-well by removing drain plugs before leaving a water access or shoreline property. Keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft. Q&A – Boat draining, drain plugs, and bait container draining

DISPOSE of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches, and worms, in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a waterbody or release aquatic animals from one waterbody to another. If you want to keep your bait, you must refill the bait container with bottled or tap water.

Before moving to another waterbody: Spray, Rinse, Dry. Some invasive species are small and difficult to see. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody, especially after leaving zebra mussel and spiny waterflea infested waters: Spray with high-pressure water, Rinse with very hot water, Dry for at least 5 days.

Anoka County’s AIS Coordinator and a crew of watercraft inspectors will work the waterways seven days a week through Labor Day. View the video (YouTube, Anoka County; 2:00) of watercraft inspectors and boaters working together to keep invasive species out of Anoka County lakes and rivers.


Andover Water Pledge Medal

Andover won the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation

(UPDATE May 12, 2016) Andover, MN has won the Wyland Foundation’s National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation award (Population Category 30,000-99,999).

You and your family can still make a pledge that lasts all year long! Make a pledge from now until March 31, 2017 and you’ll be entered to win a piece of art picked out by marine life artist and conservationist Wyland.

Andover Mayor Trude (YouTube video 1:10) led the pledge to show that Andover can meet the challenge!

Andover Water Pledge

Sprinkler Head

Community watering restrictions are going into effect

As Anoka County communities grow – so does our demand for water. The trick is to use water wisely so that our combined water demand doesn’t exceed our local water resources supply. During the summer months water use increases for lawn sprinkling. A homeowners water use in July can be six (6) times greater than January.

Lawn Watering Tips (from Don Taylor, University of Minnesota Extension Service Horticulturist): (1) Consider whether lawn irrigation is necessary in your situation; (2) Lawn irrigation would normally be minimal in spring until June; (3) Add 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water per week (minus any rainfall) during the summer months; (4) Keep the intervals between irrigations as long as possible; and (5) Water in early morning hours for greatest efficiency.

Residents and businesses throughout Anoka County should take note of city watering restrictions:

Contact your water utility for more information about water conservation, leak detection and water fixtures that conserve water.

Do you know where your drinking water comes from?

Well Water Wise (3W) week (May 2-6, 2016) test your home/cabin well

The Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services (CHES) Department, in cooperation with 15 municipalities and county agencies, is sponsoring the 17th annual “Well Water Wise” (3W) week promotion May 2-6, 2016 to encourage residents to check the safety of their private well water. For information on private well testing go to the Anoka County Environmental Services Well Water Testing webpage or call 763-422-7063.

County residents may pick up a well water test kit at participating city and township offices (listed below) or in the Environmental Services Unit, Suite 600 of the Anoka County Government Center, 2100 3rd Avenue in Anoka. Water samples can be submitted to the county’s Environmental Services Unit for analysis every Monday from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to noon. During 3W week, samples can be submitted Monday through Thursday (8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.) and Friday (before noon). The well water testing kit includes details about water collection and submission. A laboratory fee of $30.00 will be charged for coliform bacteria and nitrate-nitrogen analysis.

Unlike public water utilities, private well water is not treated with chlorine to prevent bacteria growth. Simply looking at the appearance of drinking water is not a reliable indicator of whether it is safe to drink. An annual coliform bacteria test is a good way to ensure that your drinking water continues to be free of bacteria.

Nitrate-nitrogen occurs naturally in groundwater and wells at concentrations below one milligram per liter (mg/L). Nitrogen can seep into private wells from a variety of sources including septic systems, nitrogen fertilizers, animal feedlots, and landfills. The Minnesota Department of Health has established a Health Risk Limit (HRL) for nitrate-nitrogen at 10 mg/L. Levels above that point may pose an immediate risk to infants and pregnant women.

The testing of private wells used for drinking water is the responsibility of individual owners. There are an estimated 25,000 private wells in service throughout Anoka County. Only a small percentage of them are tested annually. For more information about well water testing, call the Environmental Services Unit at 763-422-7063.

Pick up a well water testing kit at participating communities and agencies:

  • City of Andover, City Hall (1685 Crosstown Blvd. NW)
  • City of Bethel, City Hall (23820 Dewey Street)
  • City of Blaine, City Hall (10801 Town Square Drive)
  • City of Centerville, City Hall (1880 Main Street)
  • City of Columbus, City Hall (16319 Kettle River Blvd. NE)
  • City of East Bethel, City Hall (2241 221st Avenue NE)
  • City of Ham Lake, City Hall (15544 Central Avenue NE)
  • City of Lino Lakes, City Hall (600 Town Center Parkway)
  • Linwood Township, Township Hall (22817 Typo Creek Drive NE)
  • City of Nowthen, City Hall (8188 199th Ave. NW)
  • City of Oak Grove, City Hall (19900 Nightingale St. NW)
  • City of Ramsey, City Hall (7550 Sunwood Drive NW)
  • City of St. Francis, City Hall (23340 Cree St NW)
  • Anoka Conservation District (1318 McKay Drive NW, Suite 300, Ham Lake)
  • Anoka County Extension Service (550 Bunker Lake Blvd. NW, Andover)
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