LIVING GREEN: Taking good care of our waterFrom start to finish, you can make your boating trips this summer healthier for our lakes and rivers – as well as the fish and wildlife you’re out there to enjoy!
From start to finish, you can make your boating trips this summer healthier for our lakes and rivers – as well as the fish and wildlife you’re out there to enjoy!
Keeping your motor tuned and clean is a good start. A well-running motor helps keep gas, oil and exhaust out of the water, where it’s toxic to aquatic life. Running at slower speeds and eliminating unnecessary idling helps, too.
Replacing an old outboard motor helps, too. One hour of use of a two-stroke engine contributes as many pollutants as driving a car 800 miles, according to an EPA study. As a result, the EPA has improved its pollution regulations for outboard motors and other recreational motors.
And while you’re taking your time and motoring carefully around, watch out for aquatic plants and shallow water. Chopping up aquatic plants and stirring up sediment with your prop harms the aquatic life at the bottom of the food chain. And those are the critters that the top of the food chain depend on – the fish we like to catch and birds we like to watch.
General cleanliness goes a long way to keeping our waters healthy, too. Plastic and other trash is more than unsightly – birds and fish can die from becoming entangled in or consuming trash. Even throwing food (and fish guts) into the water can harm it, drawing gulls and other scavengers to the area and unnaturally concentrating feces that could lead to algae blooms or disease-causing germs in the water.
On a bit more delicate subject, think ahead about your own human waste. Minnesota law requires no-discharge toilets on boats, if your boat is big enough to have one. But other users – canoeists and kayakers included – can reduce the impact when the urge comes and no toilet or latrine is handy. Most low-impact camping guides advise digging a six to eight-inch hole 200 feet from the water, burying your waste and packing your toilet paper out.
In many areas now, however, backpackers, kayakers, mountain climbers and other non-motorized users are required to carry out their own human waste. It’s especially common in desert areas along rivers and on popular mountain climbing areas. But shorelines with lots of paddling and boat traffic, such as the Maine Island Water Trail, also are starting to see the regulations.
Simple systems have been developed using water-tight containers the size of a coffee can, sealable bags and newspaper, and even systems with powdered crystals that will break the waste down to an odorless gel. Then your waste can be flushed down the toilet or emptied in an RV dump station for proper treatment.
You can find descriptions of do-it-yourself systems and some commercial systems you can buy on the Rocky Mountain Sea Kayakers’ Club Web site – www.rmskc.org.
A tackle box overhaul can help, too – recent studies have shown that lead tackle can be hazardous to wildlife. It’s difficult to figure out exactly how many water birds and birds of prey die from eating lead tackle. But in loon breeding areas, biologists have found that about 25 percent of dead loons have died from lead poisoning.
Finally, be sure to clean your boat to make sure no aquatic invasive species ride along to another body of water. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommends a thorough cleaning, drying the boat for five days or spraying with high-pressure, hot water, and draining bilges, live wells and bait containers before leaving the landing.
Seems like a bunch to remember, doesn’t it? But it’s rather like low-impact camping – leave only footprints (boat wakes) and take only photographs (or a few fish to eat.) That way, we’ll all have cleaner water, healthier aquatic life into the future.
This column is brought to you courtesy of the staff at Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Visit www.wlssd.com.
Did you know?
Wastewater from homes, businesses and industries throughout the WLSSD service area flows to the regional wastewater treatment plant through 75-mile network of interceptor sewers. WLSSD DomesWastewater is treated using a biological process that mimics natural cleaning processes in area waterways. Clean water and nutrient-rich biosolids are the end products of this process.Since beginning operations in 1978, the plant has consistently produced a high-quality effluent for discharge to the St. Louis River. In 2001, modern Biosolids processing and WLSSD began a biosolids land application program.
WLSSD works with local businesses to monitor industrial discharges and provides public pollution prevention education to help residents reduce their environmental impacts.
Current challenges in the WLSSD service area include addressing Inflow and Infiltration to reduce the chance for sewer overflows. WLSSD has developed a detailed 12-year Plan of Action to address needed improvements to the sewer collection system to prevent future problems.
The area served by the regional WLSSD wastewater collection system is defined by the District's Wastewater Services Master Plan. Proposed expansions of the system are evaluated by the District for consistency with local and regional development plans. All extensions of the system require review and approval by WLSSD and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.