Duluth wants to know what's
running into the city's streams that run into Lake
Superior, and a $352,000 federal grant will help find
The best part is, we'll
all get to watch.
Electronic sensors will
monitor four of Duluth's 42 streams for water flow,
temperature, salt content and turbidity (how brown
the water is with sediment) and transmit the information
to a Web site that people can check starting at the
end of April -- DuluthStreams.org.
Researchers also will
collect water regularly to study nutrients in the
streams -- Amity, Tischer, Chester and Kingsbury.
It's the biggest effort
yet to find out and share what's going on with Duluth's
streams that have been hard hit by development over
the past 100 years. The streams also are pounded by
chemicals -- from road salt to lawn fertilizer to
oil leaking out of vehicles -- as well as increased
flow from ditches and storm sewers.
will include maps, reports, community activities and
other information that's now scattered and difficult
to access. Local scientists will interpret the data
so it can be understood by resource managers, developers,
teachers, students and local residents.
The idea is that a well-informed
public will make better decisions about what kind
of things they do to their land, knowing that what
they do affects nearby streams. It also might affect
how the city takes care of winter streets or where
new development is aimed.
"The biggest pollution
problem in streams everywhere is suspended sediments
from erosion,'' said Rich Axler, water researcher
at the University of Minnesota's Natural Resources
Research Institute. "The particles deplete the food
supply for fish by smothering the bottom of the stream...
and by decreasing the oxygen that fish and insect
eggs need to survive.''
The problem is made worse
when sediments also carry pollutants such as mercury
and other toxins. The pollutants may poison aquatic
life and pose health risks to people who eat the fish.
Sediments also carry phosphorus from lawns and streets,
which contributes to excess algae growth in water.
Roads, parking lots and
roofs from urban development don't allow water to
soak through to the soil, sending rain and snowmelt
rushing through storm sewers, ditches and eventually
streams in unnaturally heavy flows.
That water also heats
up on hot blacktop before heading downstream, raising
stream temperatures, sometimes beyond the range for
The sensors will be placed
in the streams this spring and transmit data via cell
phone back to a computer at the NRRI. Researchers
won't release exactly where the censors are to avoid
Supporters hope the stream
monitoring and public access to the information will
result in community action.
"We'd love to see people
volunteer to monitor and help with cleanup efforts
at streams they live near,'' said Cindy Hagley, Minnesota
Sea Grant educator, in announcing the program this
week. "Hopefully, it will help community members understand
water quality issues, and they will take greater interest
in the health of their local streams.''
The city has partnered
with the NRRI, Minnesota Sea Grant, the Minnesota
Pollution Control Agency and Western Lake Superior
Sanitary District for the program. The Duluth Streams
project is paid for with $352,000 from the Environmental
Protection Agency's national Environmental Monitoring
for Public Access and Community Tracking program.
Public information will
be provided at interactive kiosks at the Great Lakes
Aquarium and the Lake Superior Zoo, as well as at
Like other cities across
the country, Duluth will be required to have a discharge
elimination system storm water permit in place by
March 2003. One requirement of the permit is for public
education and the development of a pollution prevention
"The first step toward
protection lies in understanding, and that's why we're
proud to support this work,'' Duluth Mayor Gary Doty