Homeowner septic and well education webinar

Webinar (click to register)

The University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program with the Minnesota Department of Health Well Management Program are offering a FREE septic system and private well education webinar (2 hours).

Thursday, November 15, 2018, 1:30 to 3:30pm

This class will cover the basics of how septic systems function, well water testing, and how to help protect your well from contamination sources. It will also provide property owners information on chemicals of emerging concern (CEC) including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and the potential impact on ground and surface water.

Information on proper maintenance of both septic systems and private drinking water systems will be covered to help property owners protect their investments and the environment. See the FACTSHEET for a summary of the septic and well webinar presentation.

Workshop on drinking water protection and environmental health for local officials and realtors

This free threehour workshop on environmental topics is relevant to realtors, appraisers and local government officials (e.g. building officials, community development staff, public works superintendents and reference librarians). (link to announcement)

The workshop will include presentations on:

The workshop will be held at Coon Rapids City Hall (Council Chambers) on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to Noon. The workshop is limited to 50 participants.

For more information contact Bart Biernat (7633242407, Bart.Biernat@co.anoka.mn.us) at Anoka County Environmental Services.


Wellhead protection goes beyond routinely monitoring the quality of water, to protecting the source (groundwater) from pollution. Protecting the source of a community’s drinking water is best achieved through the cooperation of the residents and property owners that drink the water. Public water suppliers are contacting property owners and providing guidance to prevent pollution of the groundwater (aquifer) source of their drinking water.

The Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Group has developed a map application that displays the Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMA) in Anoka County. A DWSMA outlines a wellhead protection area that is readily identified by landmarks (e.g. property lines, roads, ditches, etc.). Residents and property owners can see if they are in a wellhead protection area. The public water supplier is able to see potential sources of water pollution and well construction reports and unsealing certificates by activating layers in the DWSMA map application.

Your watershed neighborhood

It’s there to see but we don’t recognize it for what it is… a watershed. We know the neighborhood and community where we live. Do you know your watershed neighborhood? A watershed is the area where rain and snow-melt flows-off the land collecting in surface water bodies (e.g. Rum River, Coon Creek, Rice Creek, etc.).

A watershed is based on a natural, rather than a politically-defined area. Where is your creek or river? Where does it come from and where does it go? What’s on the land that could end up in the creek, river or lake?

Water resources are managed by watershed management organizations to maintain clean healthy water bodies. Watersheds Management Organizations are special local government entities that monitor and protect water. All areas of Anoka County are within one of the seven (7) watershed management organizations:

  • Coon Creek Watershed District (CCWD) 763-755-0975
  • Rice Creek Watershed District (RCWD) 763-398-3070
    • Includes Circle Pines, Lexington and portions of Blaine, Columbus, Columbia Heights.  The RCWD is developing its next 10-year Watershed Management Plan. Residents of the District are invited to submit comments about their priorities and concerns to the Board of Managers. Comments should be submitted to wmp@ricecreek.org before December 31, 2018.
  • Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) 612-746-4970
    • Include the Cities of Columbia Heights, Fridley and Hilltop.
    • The Mississippi WMO plan sets out goals, strategies and implementation actions based on past studies and current data on the watershed. Go to the Watershed Management Plan (webpage link) for more information.
  • Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization (LRRWMO)
    • Includes the Cities of Ramsey, Anoka, and portions of Andover.
    • The third generation LRRWMO Watershed Management Plan (webpage link) is being implemented.
  • Upper Rum River Watershed Management Organization (URRWMO)
    • Includes the Cities of St. Francis, Oak Grove, Nowthen, Bethel, and portions of East Bethel.
    • The URRWMO is updating its Watershed Management plan. Residents are encouraged to participate in guiding the URRWMO. Contact Chairman John West (612-414-3513, John@IPSSEC.com) for more information.
  • Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization (SRWMO) 763-434-2030 x12 Jamie Schurbon
    • Includes Linwood Township and portions of Columbus, East Bethel, and Ham Lake.
    • The SRWMO is updating its Watershed Management Plan setting priorities, measurable goals, a schedule of work, and expected expenditures. The expected completion of the new Plan is December 2019. To learn more or provide input, please visit the Watershed Plan (webpage link). For more information contact Jamie Schurbon (763-434-2030 jamie.schurbon@anokaswcd.org)
  • Vadnais Lake Area Watershed Management Organization (VLAWMO) 651-204-6070
    • Includes a portion of Lino Lakes.
    • The VLAWMO Watershed Management Plan (webpage link) was updated 2016. The Plan includes management standards and procedures for surface water, wetland, and groundwater issues. The Plan identifies goals, policies, priority concerns, and implementation activities for the Watershed for 2017-2026.

Keep your neighborhood in good shape and the water clean by participating in your watershed management organization’s programs and even serving on a citizen advisory or technical advisory committee.

The Watershed Approach (video series)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has developed a four-part series on the “Watershed Approach” a relatively new process for gauging the health of Minnesota’s waters and taking action to protect or restore them. The series includes:

This series is a great way to learn how local watersheds work.

Organics recycling

What are organics? Organics are the biodegradable portion of trash that can be composted at a commercial composting facility that includes:

  • all food scraps such as leftovers, peelings and spoiled food
  • soiled, non-recyclable papers such as facial tissue, paper towels, paper napkins and delivery pizza boxes
  • certified compostable products such as compostable tableware and bags labeled with the Cedar Grove Composting or the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) logo

Why are organics important? Organics make up 25% – 35% of what we throw away. Those materials can be separated for composting and recycled into compost instead of being thrown away. Compost is a soil amendment that benefits all soil types and greatly improves moisture retention, soil structure and binds nutrients in the root zone for healthier plants. It can be used in landscaping, erosion control, seeding and road construction projects.

Who is collecting organics for composting? Organics recycling programs are expanding everywhere. In Anoka County, there are two organics drop-offs at its compost sites. Additionally, about half of the communities have drop-off sites for residents to bring their organics. Area schools and restaurants have also started organics collection programs. Organics collection is happening at local community events such as the 3M Championship Golf Tournament and Bunker Beach.

How can I recycle my organics? Sign up to participate in an organics drop-off program today:

To get started with the County Organics Drop-off Program

  • Sign up using the online form. If you completed a sign-up form at one of the compost sites no need to complete our online form too. (Contact information is gathered so that we can notify you of updates or changes to the organics drop-off program.)
  • Pick up a free starter kit at the compost sites during hours of operation or at the Recycling and Resource Solutions Office (1530 Bunker Lake Boulevard NW, Andover) Monday – Friday 8:00 – 4:30.
  • Collect organic waste in a compostable bag and tie off the bag.
  • Visit the compost site during hours of operation and place the bag in the organics recycling container.
  • Ask the monitor for more free BPI certified bags.

Watch for organics collection containers at events; most containers have signage to identify types of recycled items accepted. The Minnesota Twins and St. Paul Saints stadiums offer organics collection.

Parking lot snow being removed (MPCA photo)

Smart Salting for environmental & economic savings

It takes 1 teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Each winter, tons of salt is spread on roads, parking lots, and sidewalks. Most of it ends up in lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. Anoka County’s lakes and rivers are getting saltier, which harms the fish, bugs, and other organisms living in them.

Smart Salting teaches public and private maintenance crews how to effectively keep roads, parking lots, and sidewalks safe while protecting our lakes and rivers. The training can also save money: Many previous participants have reduced their salt use by 30 – 70%. Private snow removal businesses can also let their clients know they’re protecting the environment with the voluntary Smart Salting certification.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers a Level 1 (individual) and Level 2 (organizational) Smart Salting certification for both private and public sector participants. Level 1 includes a roads class and a parking lots/sidewalks class. The Level 2 certification features an assessment tool which aids in budget planning and communicating with public officials or others who provide funding for maintenance work.

Level 1 Training topics:

  • How you can make changes to protect our water
  • The effect of salt on our lakes, rivers and groundwater
  • How de-icers, abrasives, pre-wetting, and anti-icing work
  • Selection of the best product for the conditions
  • Equipment calibration
  • Application rates
  • New maintenance methods
  • Cost savings tips

Level 2 Training topics:

  • Overview of the Impact salt has on our water resources
  • Steps to become Level 2 certified for your organization
  • Introduction to the Smart Salting Assessment tool (SSAt)
  • Explore SSAt with guided instruction on a computer provided in the lab
  • How to utilize the SSAt reports

Visit the MPCA’s Smart Salting training webpage for more information and upcoming trainings.

Natural heritage advisory committee accepting applicants for membership

Citizens with a strong interest in the state’s native prairies, forests and wetlands and the wildlife in them are invited to apply by 4:30 p.m. Nov. 12 for a key advisory board.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking people to fill four vacancies on the Commissioner’s Advisory Committee on Natural Heritage. Appointees will be responsible for advising the DNR on issues related to sustaining the state’s natural heritage and biological diversity.

Since 1966, the committee has made recommendations and given support to state scientific and natural areas, in which native plant communities and rare wildlife species are protected. The committee also now advises other programs within the department’s Ecological and Water Resources Division including nongame wildlife, Minnesota Biological Survey, prairie protection, rare resources, wetland monitoring, and terrestrial invasive species.

This appointed Committee makes recommendations to these Minnesota Department of Natural Resources programs:

Any Minnesota resident with interest or expertise in sustaining our state’s natural heritage may apply online until 4:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at mndnr.gov/cac. Applicants should have knowledge, demonstrated dedication or experience related to natural area systems, conservation biology, ecology, geology, environmental education, natural resource management, protection of Minnesota’s rare species, or marketing, communication or promotions focused on natural resources.

Members are expected to participate in five, four to five hour long meetings per year plus one, one to two day field trip. Members may also choose to participate in subcommittees or other meeting preparation. The DNR commissioner will appoint committee members for terms of up to five years starting in January.

Interested applicants can learn more by visiting the Committee’s website at mndnr.gov/cac.

Efforts to save water are making a difference

The Mississippi and Rum rivers, Coon Lake, Lake George, Rice Creek Chain of Lake, creeks, groundwater and wetlands are essential to life and our economic vitality. The quality of our natural waters is an asset that must be protected to ensure that our water supply is safe and plentiful in the future.

“We have had a tendency to take this abundance and cleanliness for granted. But this complacency could lead to our undoing. Minnesota’s population will grow—an estimated 22 percent larger by 2035—and that increased population will result in ever greater demands on our finite water supply and its quality…” (Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework, January 2011)

Some good news. A new study from the United States Geologic Survey (Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2015, June 2018) indicates water use across the country dropped between 2010 and 2015, despite that the population rose four (4) percent. Average water use by individuals continues to fall since the early 2000s from 88 gallons in 2010 to 82 gallons in 2015. Which means water efficient household fixtures are helping to conserve local water supplies.

Thermoelectric (e.g. nuclear and coal power plants) and agricultural irrigation are the dominant water use categories nationally. Thermoelectric power generation water use fell from a historic level by 18% since 2010. Irrigation withdrawals were two percent (2%) higher than in 2010. The biggest consumer of irrigation water was California. However, the county breakdown reveals variations that are significant to plan and manage local water resources.

Public water supply makes up over 92% of water use in the Anoka County. There are no thermoelectric power plants and agricultural irrigation use is much less within developing metropolitan regions. The Report comes with an interactive map showing visualizations of the data it contains to provide the public with new ways to see the information without diving too deep into the numbers.

SepticSmart Week

SepticSmart Week (September 17th through 21st, 2018). 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).

Here’s a Winter tip. With cold/freezing weather, your septic system might freeze causing sewage backup in your home and discharge in your yard. Let your grass grow longer over the septic tank and drain-field that will insulate the soils and sewage distribution pipes from frost. For more information check out the factsheet Freezing Problems and Septic Systems.

SEPTIC CLASS. The Anoka County Extension Service is holding a Homeowner Education for Septic Systems workshop on October 22, 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 nearly $2M to correct water quality issues in Anoka County. Contact Community Development for more information at 763-323-5722.

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, 2019. Get yours today and plan a trip! For information, please contact via email everykidinapark@ios.doi.gov or visit https://www.everykidinapark.gov/.

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.

Home school opportunities expand for Anoka County students

Home school parents have more options to provide science and natural resources education programs for their children. The Anoka Country Parks and Recreation Department and the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve are offering home school programs to provide parents with a monthly naturalist led education with topics to engage students.


Wargo Nature Center Home School Program

The Anoka County Parks and Recreation Home School Classes begins October 18th. Wargo Nature Center’s professional naturalists provide quality environmental, recreational and natural history programs. Program sessions are designed for the 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 (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.).  The program starts promptly so please come early.  Pre-registration and pre-payment of $5/student (plus tax) is required.  Space is limited so be sure to use the Youth Prgrams online registration and sign up for the season. Check out the Anoka County Parks 2018-19 Home School Brochure for more information or call the Wargo Nature Center at 651-429-8007.

Pre-school Forest Kids Club provides children ages 3-5 with opportunities to learn from a naturalist while exploring, adventuring, and learning. Wargo Nature Center naturalists will work with participants on their school-readiness skills (9:30 to 11:30 Wednesdays during the school year). If you are interested in learning more, or would like to register, visit www.anokacountyparks.com or contact Wargo Nature Center at 763-324-3350.


Cedar Creek ESR Home School Program

New this Fall! Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is thrilled to expand its high-quality education offerings to the homeschool community! Starting on September 13th, each month focuses on a specific topic studied by world-class researchers at Cedar Creek, providing the opportunity to go in depth into subjects of importance to the world, to the research community, and to society as a whole. Instruction is provided by Cedar Creek’s seasoned naturalists, and each session offers the opportunity to experience life as a scientist.

Science options are often limited for homeschool students once they reach middle school and high school grade levels. Why not come do science at Cedar Creek, where you have the opportunity to explore many different topics alongside professional scientists and their experiments? Homeschool programs for ages 12-18 are offered on the second Thursday of each month from 10am – 3pm.

You will spend time indoors and out, conducting hand-on investigations, meeting scientists, visiting long-term scientific experiments, and exploring nature. Come prepared to be outside in the dirt, regardless of the weather!

2018-2019 topics

  • September 13th:  Science of Climate Change
  • October 11th:       Forest Ecology and Tree ID
  • November 8th:     Wildlife Field Methods I
  • December 13th:   Art & Science
  • January 10th:      Geology of the Anoka Sandplain
  • February 14th:    Wildlife Field Methods II
  • March 14th:        Experimental Design and Inquiry
  • April 11th:           Phenology and Citizen Science
  • May 9th:             Ornithology/Birding
  • June 13th:          Dragonflies & Damselflies

Register for one or more classes. Students must be at least 12 years old to participate. Pre-registration is required, and we reserve the right to cancel classes with fewer than 5 students registered. Click here to complete an initial registration form! A staff member will contact you shortly with paperwork and payment information.

Fees. Classes are $18 per student per session, and must be paid in advance by check or cash. Parents do not need to attend the class with their student.

Planning Guide. Resources to help you and your students prepare for a successful visit. Handout for students and families.

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