Apply for a MnTAP intern now for next summer

Businesses struggling to lower their costs reducing waste while improving water and energy efficiency now have the opportunity to partner with the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) to sponsor a 2018 college intern. An intern can make suggestions that improve efficiency, save money, reduce waste, or decrease regulatory compliance burden. Instead of hiring new technical staff – MnTAP provides an intern that has the time and creativity to research alternative equipment, procedures, chemicals, and raw materials.

In 2017, MnTAP Interns identified process improvement opportunities that can save $1.6 million annually for host businesses.

MnTAP will have projects in industrial water efficiency, process optimization in food processing including chemical use, energy and water efficiency, as well as tailored assistance to large and small businesses throughout the state.  Projects are financially supported through a variety of partnerships including counties, utilities and industry associations to name a few. Contact MnTAP to find out how you can help bring MnTAP Interns to the businesses you serve.

Your company is still paying twice for water; once for the water provided to your facility and once for the amount of water you are discharging to the local wastewater treatment facility. Water conservation measures can reduce the amount of water you use as well as your water costs

Here are three projects from 2017:
  • Plastech, Rush City, MN Goal: Reduce process energy use in plastics molding operation with funding from MPCA and East Central Energy.
  • Diasorin, Stillwater, MN Goal: Optimize water use in medical diagnostic devices manufacturing with funding from Washington County.
  • Kerry Ingredients, Rochester, MN Goal: Improve energy and chemical use efficiency with funding from MPCA, U.S. EPA and Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation.
For more information on the intern program visit http://www.mntap.umn.edu/interns.  If you would like to discuss a potential intern project, contact Nathan Landwehr, MnTAP’s Intern Program Administrator, at 612-624-4697 or landwehr@umn.edu. 

Water quality buffer protection of lakes, rivers, streams and ditches

In June of 2015, Governor Dayton signed into law the buffer initiative aimed at enhancing the protection of Minnesota’s waters. The Buffer Law requires that perennial vegetation buffers (16.5 to 50 feet) be maintained along lakes, rivers, streams and ditches to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment that could pollute water resources. The law provides flexibility and financial support for landowners to install and maintain buffers.

Landowners likely have many questions about how this new law will impact their property. The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources oversees the process and is providing information to landowners:

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has completed its Buffer Mapping Project that determines what waters are subject to the new law. There are less than 200 properties across Anoka County that lack the buffer required by the Buffer Law.

DNR Surface Water Buffer Map (Anoka Co.)

Anoka County Portion of the Buffer Map (MN Dept. of Natural Resources)

Landowners are encouraged to establish buffers with the advice of the Anoka Conservation District or their local building official.

The Buffer Law specifies November 2017 as the deadline for establishment of 50-foot wide buffers on public waters (e.g. lakes, rivers and streams) and November 2018 for 16.5-foot wide buffers on public drainage systems (e.g. County ditches).

Anoka County Water Quality Buffers. The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) has surveyed public waters inventorying adjacent land to determine the properties that may lack sufficient buffer (perennial vegetation). ACD will contact property owners and provide technical assistance to help them comply with the Buffer Law. For more information contact Jared Wagner at 763-434-2030 x18 (jared.wagner@anokaswcd.org).

Drinking water safety of public and private (home wells) supplies

Several articles recently appeared in Twin Cities newspapers, television and websites regarding the safety of drinking water. Reports of waste disposal polluting groundwater and well water has called attention to the safety of drinking water in the metropolitan area (What did 3M know about PFCs, StarTribune, 11/26/2017; 3M Pollution raised cancer rates, Pioneer Press, 11/20/2017; and Drinking water blamed in hundreds of illnesses, CNN, 11/9/2017) .

In 2015, the Anoka County Community Health Board determined that water quality and sustainable drinking water are a most important community health issue. By this determination, the Community Health and Environmental Health Department has expanded efforts to protect the source of drinking water to its communities and residents.

Public water supplies. The Minnesota Department of Health and Anoka County Environmental Services assist public water suppliers in monitoring the safety of their drinking water quality through regularly testing and maintenance of their system. Community water systems provide annual testing results to users.

Source Water Protection. Water pollution near public water supply wells have a greater potential of contaminating the drinking water supply of an entire community. Public water suppliers in Anoka County have determined that the best way to protect their residents’ drinking water supply is a joint wellhead protection program (Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Group) with neighboring communities. By working together, communities are reaching their mutual goal (safe drinking water supply) with greater success.

What is a wellhead protection area? A wellhead protection area is a protection zone around a public well to keep pollutants from rapidly reaching the community’s water supply.  The area is established using easily identifiable landmarks as boundaries (e.g. streets, property lines, ditches).  The wellhead protection area is based on the minimum time (ten years) for a pollutant to reach the well.

Who’s Impacted? A wellhead protection area includes hundreds to thousands of properties. Residents and businesses within a wellhead protection area are asked to cooperate with their water supplier to effectively protect our water supply without establishing additional ordinances or regulatory programs. The Municipal Wellhead Protection Group has developed an on-line map to show properties located in wellhead protection areas (also called Drinking Water Supply Management Areas) and the vulnerability to pollution.

Private well supplies. Since 1974, private wells are required to be constructed according to the Minnesota Well Code. When a well contractor (driller) constructs a well the driller must test the quality of the water. Future water testing and maintenance of a private (home/cabin) wells is the responsibility of the homeowner. Anoka County Environmental Services provides well water testing service to residents. Residents are encouraged to perform an annual sanitary analysis (total coliform bacteria and nitrate-nitrogen).

A word about arsenic. Private well water tests have also found arsenic above the safe drinking water standard (10 micrograms per liter) in approximately 8% of Anoka County wells. Since 2012, new wells are tested for arsenic concentration. Well constructed before 2012 (or well owners that do not have a certified water test) are encouraged to test their well. By learning if unsafe levels of arsenic is in drinking water, families can take action to protect themselves.

For more information about testing your private well contact Bart Biernat 763-324-4207, Bart.Biernat @ co.anoka.mn.us.

Peltier Lake drawdown project to control curlyleaf pondweed

The Rice Creek Watershed District (RCWD) is conducting a temporary water level drawdown on Peltier Lake. The drawdown will continue through the winter of 2017/18. Water levels will recede slowly during the drawdown – approximtaly 1 inch per day. At its lowest, water levels will be approximately 3 feet below normal. Water levels will return to normal after ice-out in the spring of 2018.

The project is intended to reduce invasive curlyleaf pondweed and improve water clarity. Peltier Lake remains open for fishing during the drawdown. Anoka County Parks will continue to operate an aerator on the west side of the lake during winter months to protect the fishery from winterkill. Winter lake travelers should heed warning signs, and not approach the aerators – thin ice is likely in this area.

For more information contact the Rice Creek Watershed District at 763-398-3070.

Rice Creek Watershed District - Curley Leaf Pondweed control project.

Rice Creek Watershed District – Curley Leaf Pondweed control project.

Business plays an important role in preventing pollution

Since 1985, businesses have participated in the Anoka County Hazardous Waste Management Program that prevents air, soils and water pollution. The Environmental Health Services section holds annual workshops with businesses to learn the challenges they face and answer questions about the Hazardous Waste Management Ordinance.

At the November 1, 2017 Large Quantity Generator workshop, participants learned how to “operate to prevent a release.” The workshop emphasis is not only to maintain a system that manages hazardous waste labeling, recording and reporting but to operate in a manner that prevents a release. After all, that’s what managing hazardous waste is about, preventing pollution, said Laura Schmidt (Anoka County Environmental Health Specialist).

RECYCLING. Not only did Participants learned how to manage their hazardous wastes but their solid waste too through the Commercial Recycling Business Assistance Program. Anoka County Recycling and Resource Solutions helps businesses reduce, reuse and recycle through services such as free on-site technical assistance.

WATER RESOURCES. Increasing focus on our water resources was discussed at the Workshop. Recently, the Anoka County Community Health Board determined that Water Quality and Sustainable Drinking Water is a most important community health issue.  We share the responsibility to manage and protect those water resources that we share, said Bart Biernat (Anoka County Environmental Health Specialist). Concern over the management and protection of water resources is growing to include Governor Dayton’s 25BY25 initiative, the North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area designation, falling levels in White Bear Lake leading to a lawsuit and appeal, the recently completed Anoka County Geologic Atlas and Metropolitan Groundwater Model indicating groundwater sensitive to pollution and reduced aquifers and water supply in rural areas of the county.

FACILITATE AND COLLABORATE. There are many opportunities for individuals and businesses to facilitate, collaborate and cooperate in managing and protecting our natural resources. The Workshop participants can also support and facilitate the management of local resources by encouraging customers and employees to use services such as the Anoka County Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Facility to keep residential hazardous waste being mixed with solid waste. And Organics Composting that further reduces solid waste volumes. Businesses are encouraged to participate in the annual Green Expo that continues to grow each year.

Businesses can facilitate developing the next phase of water efficiency and waste reduction by collaborating with the MnTAP program to sponsor a University of Minnesota student intern project at their facility to improve efficiency, save money, reduce waste and decrease regulatory burdens.

Many Anoka County businesses make sustainable green environmental initiatives a part of their business. Some examples (not an inclusive list) are:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT:

  • Business hazardous waste contact Environmental Health Services – Laura Schmidt (763-324-4208 or email Laura.Schmidt@co.anoka.mn.us)
  • Household hazardous waste contact Anoka County Recycling and Resources Solutions (763-324-3400 or on-line contact)

Metro Children’s Water Festival celebrates 20th year

(September 28, 2017) Over 1,400 fourth grade students (including 200 Anoka County students) attended the 20th annual Metro Children’s Water Festival.  The students participated in a number of water presentations learning the most important lesson – water is the reason life exists on earth (water is life).

Learning stations at the Festival include:

  • WaterWater is constantly in motion all around us, rising up into the sky through evaporation from rivers and oceans, and then falling back to Earth as rain or snow. Plants play a major role in the water cycle, drawing water from the soil and releasing it into the air through their leaves. One acre of broad-leafed forest may release as much as 8,000 gallons of water into the atmosphere every day. [Science Museum of Minnesota]
  • Singing Rivers: CLEAN IT UP is the refrain for The River Cleanup Boogie – I went down to the river.  To catch me some fish.  But the mud in the water made my kids go “ish!”  I told them not to worry.  It’s been like that awhile when I said let’s clean it up and they began to smile LET’S CLEAN IT UP!
  • Well Well Well: It’s not just “dirt” below us.  There are many very different formations of sand and stone (see the Virtual Egg Carton of major rock types).  We stand on a huge geologic layer cake.  Some layers (like sand, gravel, sandstone and limestone) are hydraulically permeable (called aquifers) allowing water to supply a well.  Other layers (like clay, shale, granite and slate) restrict water movement.  In some areas of the country, wells produce crude oil or natural gas.  My my my, there’s a lot more below us than just dirt. [Gary Meyer, Minnesota Geologic Survey, meyer015 @umn.edu] ‎
  • The Mystery of the Disappearing Waterfall: A great waterfall moved from Saint Paul to Minneapolis and set the stage for two cities to be born.  Rivers are the reason we are here in the twin cities.  The waterfall, that started 12,000 years ago in St. Paul, was huge and could swallow half of the city.  Now, it’s the gentle Saint Anthony waterfall in Minneapolis.  [Lyndon Torstenson, National Park Service, lyndon_torstenson @nps.gov]
  • The House that Jack Built: Our drinking water comes from a local source.  Either a well or the Mississippi River.  It gets to your faucet by constructing a well or water system and installing plumbing and fixtures to keep the water clean and safe to drink.
  • FLUSH – The Wastewater Story:  Wastewater must be cleaned up before reaching rivers, lakes and groundwater.  A home septic system or treatment plant uses physical and natural processes to remove bacteria and human wastes.  However natural processes will not remove household and industrial chemicals that are not found in nature.  Homes may dispose of waste chemicals safely by dropping them off at a household hazardous waste facility.  Businesses properly must dispose of their chemicals according to law.  [Patti Craddock, Central States Water Environment Association, pcraddock @sehinc.com]
  • Streams and Wetlands: The forces of water have a powerful effect on our environment.  Water is always moving to keep our environment in balance.  Streams carry stormwater from saturated/flooded areas.  Wetlands perform  important functions to store water, control flooding, clean stormwater, and provide habitat for waterfowl and reptiles. [Nanette Geroux, Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, nanette.geroux @metc.state.mn.us]
  • Just Passing Through: Vegetation helps to keep rain water clean by capturing soil particles carried by stormwater.  The roots of plants can absorb pollution keeping it from reaching water resources like lakes, rivers and groundwater.  Water is always “just passing through” but plants help to keep it clean. [Linda Radimecky, MN Dept. of Natural Resources, linda.radimecky @state.mn.us]
  • The Water Beneath our Feet: In the “slice of earth” we learned that water collects in open spaces between sand grains.  Gravity makes water moves down and through sand, gravel and sandstone that are found in layers (called aquifers) providing water to wells.  Water is the “universal solvent” that will dissolves and mix with practically any chemical resulting in “water pollution.”   The trick is to keep water and potential pollutants from getting together.
  • A Model Stream: Water doesn’t just flow down a stream channel.  Water is the reason there is a stream channel! And, a flowing river, creek or stream has the power to alter the channel.  For more information check out River Model Clips or Healthy Rivers.  [Brooke Asleson, MN Pollution Control Agency, brooke.asleson @state.mn.us]
  • Macro Madness: We all need water to survive, to drink.  Aquatic insects need clean water too.  Using biologic monitoring (water insects) we can tell the health of a creek, stream or river.  Sensitive invertebrates (like Stonefly Nymph, Mayfly Nimph, and Caddisfly Larvae) found in a stream indicates the quality of the water is good.
  • Water Quality – Is Your Understanding Crystal Clear?:  Samples from different water bodies have very different qualities.  A lake is a standing body of water the permits sediment to settle to the bottom and temperature (thermal) layers and established in the water.  Water flowing in a river or creek is constantly on the move having very different characteristics.
  • How Do Fish Get Mercury?: Like water, mercury can evaporate becoming airborne.  The mercury contaminates rain falling into lakes and rivers.  Fish become contaminated with methylmercury by eating food (plankton and smaller fish) that builds up in their flesh. Fish that eat other fish become even more highly contaminated. Thus, the fish most desirable for many anglers (bass, walleye and northern pike) are the most affected.  [Bruce Monson, MN Pollution Control Agency, Bruce.Monson @state.mn.us]
  • Adopt A River Crime Lab: Trash on land and trash on the river.  The Story of Peanut (the turtle with a peanut shaped shell) is an example of the effects of carelessly disposing trash in the Mississippi River.  [Paul Nordell, MN Dept. of Natural Resouces, paul.nordell @state.mn.us]
  • Watch it Rain!: Erosion is serious problem for both cropland and water quality.  Rain carries soil particles from bare land into ditches, lake and creeks.  Using conservation practices we learned how to manage our land and protect water resouces.  [Mark Zumwinkel, MN Dept. of Agriculture, mark.zumwinkle @state.mn.us]
  • Water Pollution on Trial: Environmental regulations set water quality standards and limits pollution discharged from businesses.  There is a variety of enforcement options to stop pollution and clean up polluted water normally with the cooperation of the business or institution.  When there isn’t cooperation then there may be a trial. [Joshua Berman, MN Pollution Control Agency, joshua.burman @state.mn.us]
  • Buzzzz…Mosquitos!: When it comes to mosquitoes everyone has an opinion.  Separating opinion from fact is what science education is all about. Mosquitos belong to the Culex order that (like all flies) go through four stages of life: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  Female mosquitos hunt for blood by detecting carbon dioxide and octenol emitted in the breath and sweat of warm-blooded animals, including us. [Mike McLean, Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, mmclean @mmcd.org]

The next Metro Area Children’s Water Festival is scheduled for Sept. 26, 2018.  Registration for the lottery drawing will open on February 1, 2018 and close on March 31th.  For more information contact Bart Biernat at Anoka County Environmental Services (763-422-6985, Bart.Biernat@co.anoka.mn.us).

SepticSmart Week – September 18-22, 2017

(UPDATE! Sept. 17, 2017) Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed the week of September 18-22, 2017 as SepticSmart Week in Minnesota to recognize the importance that septic systems play in properly treating wastewater, protecting public health and maintaining clean water for drinking, swimming and fishing.

“Proper septic system care and maintenance is vital to protecting public health; preserving our much valued groundwater, lakes and streams; and avoiding costly repairs. Citizens and the environment of the State of Minnesota benefits from properly designed, installed, operated, and maintained septic systems” said Governor Mark Dayton.

It isn’t difficult to maintain a septic system. Just like a wastewater treatment plant, homeowners have to maintain their system in good condition to keep it working right. All it takes is regular maintenance. During SepticSmart Week 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 in repairs down the drain by damaging your septic system! Check out the Pumping and Maintenance of Septic Systems video (YouTube, 4:20).

SEPTIC CLASS. The Anoka County Extension Service is holding a Homeowner Education for Septic Systems workshop on October 3, 2017 and March 12, 2018. 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.

SEPTIC REPAIR LOANS. Anoka County Community Development is offering Agricultural Best Management Practices Loans (AgBMP) to repair septic systems. Since 2014, Anoka County assisted property owners to repair or replacing failing wells or septic systems. The AgBMP program has provided residents with over $1.5M to correct water quality issues in Anoka County. Contact Community Development for more information at 763-323-5722.

Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can.

September is National Preparedness Month

We should all take action to prepare! We are all able to help first responders in our community by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes — where we live, work, and visit. The goal of NPM is to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, school, and place of worship.

2017 Weekly Themes

  1. Week 1: Sept. 1-9 (Make a Plan for Yourself, Family and Friends)
  2. Week 2: Sept. 10-16 (Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community
  3. Week 3: Sept. 17-23 (Practice and Build Out Your Plans)
  4. Week 4: Sept. 24-30 (Get Involved! Be a Part of Something Larger)

 

Anoka County community water meeting at Anoka-Ramsey

(UPDATE – AUGUST 30, 2017) Those that couldn’t attend the meeting last night can still participate in the metropolitan regional town hall meetings (indicated below) or submit your ideas at the 25BY25 on-line survey

An analysis and compilation (by the League of Women Voters – ABC) of community responses is available (click here).  

(AUGUST 9, 2017) The League of Women Voters ABC has announced Bruce Bomier, Chair of Environmental Resource Council, as the welcoming speaker for the Anoka County Community Water Meeting.

Mr. Bomier has degrees in Public Health, Epidemiology and Forensics and has published extensively in the areas of public health and environmental policy. He also founded one of the major environmental engineering firms in the Midwest, the Institute for Environmental Assessment (IEA), and served as its CEO for many years. Bruce was also appointed by three successive governors to serve on Minnesota’s Environmental Quality Board and for several years provided environmental and humanities commentaries on Public Radio. Mr. Bomier’s opinion “Minnesota must admit it has a serious water-quality problem” appeared in the StarTribune newspaper (July 23, 2017).

Bruce Bomier

Bruce Bomier

To accelerate the pace of progress towards clean water throughout Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has announced the “25BY25” Water Quality Goal. The Governor seeks to spur collaboration and action in improving Minnesota’s water quality 25 percent by 2025. Without additional action, the quality of Minnesota’s waters is expected to improve only 6 to 8 percent by 2034.The Governor is calling on Minnesotans to organize Community Water Meetings this summer to provide feedback and ideas to reach the 25BY25 goal.

The League of Women Voters ABC (Andover, Blaine and Coon Rapids) will host a Community Water Meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 at the Anoka-Ramsey Community College (Legacy Room).

Governor Dayton wants to hear from Minnesotans at a series of 10 Town Halls statewide over the summer and fall. Two town hall meetings are scheduled in the metro area (metro regional information packet):

  • Minneapolis – Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Stillwater – Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Or submit your ideas to the Governor by taking the 25 by 2025 individual survey.

Anoka County’s Local Water Management Agencies. The seven (7) watershed management organizations and twenty-one municipalities in Anoka County have prepared plans to manage and protect local water resources. County-wide agencies are implementing programs that help maintain the quality and sustainability of our lakes, creeks and groundwater.

The Anoka County Community Health Board has determined that water quality and sustainable drinking water is a most important community health issue. Addressing water challenges involve the participation of community leaders, organizations, residents and businesses working together.

20170829 Community Water Meeting Flyer (capture)

Drinking water protection grants for small public water systems

ANNOUNCEMENT (link). The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announces the availability of funding to support the protection of drinking water at noncommunity transient public water system (PWS) that include water wells that serve a restaurant, hotel or office building. Noncommunity transient systems serve at least 25 people at least 60 days of the year, but do not serve the same 25 people over that period of time. Source water protection activities that are funded under this grant program must support measures that address a potential contamination source that presents a high risk to a source of drinking water as determined by the Minnesota Department of Health.

GRANT AWARDS (link). The total amount of funding that is available under this notice is $75,000. The minimum amount for any grant is $250 and the maximum amount is $10,000 and requires an equal cost share. However, when more than one qualifying noncommunity transient PWS apply under the same grant request, the cap amount will be increased by as much as $10,000 for each additional PWS up to a maximum grant amount of $30,000.

ELIGIBILITY. A source water protection noncommunity transient competitive grant is intended to support implementation of the source water protection measures that address a potential source of contamination exhibiting a high risk that is recognized by MDH either 1) in a sanitary survey or 2) through corrective actions relating to monitoring for a contaminant that may result in an acute public health concern.

Applications for this grant program are accepted between Friday September 1, 2017 8:00 a.m. and Friday September 29, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT. Kris Wenner, Source Water Protection Grant Coordinator (Health.SWPgrants@state.mn.us) subject line of email:  Attention Kris Wenner.

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