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Great Lakes Article:

Pollution prevention starts at home, campaign says
Local officials launch a public education campaign addressing water quality.
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
10/14/03

School kids have been spreading the message for years, stenciling storm drains to remind people that what runs off their yards and down their streets often ends up in rivers and lakes.

Adults, however, haven't been getting the message as well as expected.

That's why a coalition of local governments, state agencies and universities are forming the Regional Stormwater Protection Team. They're working with college art students to create an advertising campaign reminding the public that personal pollution matters.

The campaign, which will feature a new logo and radio and television ads, should be in full swing by next spring, said Marnie Lonsdale, Duluth's stormwater program manager. The campaign is funded by a $27,000 grant from the Lake Superior Coastal Program.

Everyone needs to know that they live, work and play in watersheds, Lonsdale said, because whatever they do on land has an impact on some waterway. In the Duluth area, there are 42 streams, including 12 designated trout streams.

"We have so many beautiful streams in this town," but many people don't know where they are, Lonsdale said. "We need to change that. We need to get people to understand that what they do in their driveway and their yard and their street affects the local stream and, eventually, the lake."

Pollution sources are numerous. Dog droppings are a big source of bacteria such a fecal coliform. Animal feces on Duluth's hillside eventually finds its way into street gutters, storm sewers, creeks, St. Louis Bay and Lake Superior. They might have been a factor in this summer's beach closings.

City surveys are showing that bacteria levels in the upper reaches of Duluth streams meet or exceed those in the harbor and Lake Superior.

Leaves and grass clippings, when improperly disposed, carry pollutants into waterways and over-fertilize streams. Engine oil and gas from leaky vehicles -- or worse, from intentional dumping -- remain major pollutants.

Grit and sand can clog spawning beds and carry pollution. Development is a constant assault on local streams.

"We would like people to understand how the watershed system works and to learn to identify and report questionable discharges," said Dick Larson, Duluth public works director.

The temperature of water also is an issue. Hot blacktop and roofs raise it beyond the level at which some trout species can survive. Slowing and cooling runoff can help keep streams in the trout's comfort range.

Others involved in the project include Superior, Proctor, Hermantown, St. Louis County, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District, UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute, UWS, Minnesota Sea Grant, the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Duluth Township and the St. Louis River Citizen's Action Committee.

For more information, see www.duluthstreams.org.

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