Protect the lake with a rake
ENVIRONMENT: Volunteers will help prevent leaves and trash
from polluting streams and Lake Superior.
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
Published September 27, 2005
Local officials are asking residents of two Duluth neighborhoods
to adopt a storm drain this fall as part of continuing
efforts to keep polluted runoff from entering local streams
and Lake Superior.
Residents of the Gary neighborhood near Stowe School
and of the East Hillside near Chester Creek will find
a letter in the mail next week urging their help and explaining
how to get a free rake.
Groups looking for civic projects also can volunteer
to adopt storm drains in other neighborhoods.
The effort is sponsored by the city of Duluth and the
South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District thanks
to a $27,000 grant from the Great Lakes Commission. It
follows last spring's initiative to sweep gutters in front
of homes to prevent sand from carrying pollution into
streams, and eventually the lake, and to keep sand from
clogging stream habitat. Duluthians collected enough sand
to fill two-and-a-half dump trucks.
Now, the enemy is leaves, grass clippings and garbage
that clog storm drains and carry pollution into streams,
said Mindy Granley, conservation specialist for the South
St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District.
"We're trying to keep hammering the message home
that whatever goes into our streets and our storm sewers
goes into our streams and the lake," she said, noting
that keeping the drains clean also will prevent street
While leaves might sound natural, they can carry pollution
with them in urban areas, such as motor oil and pesticides.
They also add organic matter that, as it breaks down in
the water, uses up oxygen needed by trout. And tons of
leaves can fertilize streams to unnatural levels.
"When a few leaves fall onto a stream, that's natural.
When hundreds of neighbors rake their leaves down the
street or down hill and they end up in the stream, that's
bad," Granley said.
Other efforts this winter will try to reduce the amount
of road salt running into streams.
Storm drain volunteers must pledge to check drains weekly.
They'll receive a free rake and some plastic bags to help
pick up garbage, leaves and sticks from their storm-drain
It's hoped more than 500 of the city's 9,500 storm drains
will be adopted this fall, and that publicity of the program
will encourage other people to keep storm drains near
their houses clear, said Marni Lonsdale, the city's storm-water
In days of reduced state and federal aid for cities,
and with property taxes already climbing just to provide
basic services, city officials say they can't keep track
of what's going into storm drains.
"We're not going to be able to give out free rakes
every year. But we are going to keep reminding people
that water quality is everyone's job," Lonsdale said.
"We get calls all the time of people saying their
storm drain is clogged with leaves. Well, it's a lot easier
and cheaper for them to clean it out and help out than
it is for us to send a crew out.... We can't afford to
monitor 9,500 storm drains."