Recently, the following article was printed in the Kanabec County Times. You may be asking yourself how runoff polluting our water in Kanabec County relates to substance abuse prevention?! As community members we are responsible for the health and well-being of our community, including our environment. This article sites examples of issues facing the citizens of our county and how we can better manage and improve our water supply. One of the simple ways, which also happens to be related to substance abuse prevention, is to dispose of unused medication at the Drug Drop Box. The Drug Drop Box is available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year and is located in the Kanabec County Jail Lobby. It is free and easily accessible to all community members. Click here for more information!
Re-posted from www.moraminn.com 1/24/17 Kanabec County Times
As ice grows thicker, water is clear and ice fishermen begin to crowd area lakes, mid-winter is not typically a time when runoff, pollution and water quality are areas of high concern.
Yet, five Kanabec County lakes and portions of seven different rivers or creeks are listed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as impaired waters. A water body is designated as “impaired” if it fails to meet one or more water quality standards.
In late August of 2016, Ogilvie resident and former city council member David Youngquist had a unique visitor when a tree frog with five legs was found clinging to the window of his home. A variety of factors can cause malformations (extra or missing limbs) in amphibians. One cause is a parasite that thrives in waters with excess nitrogen and phosphorus runoff.
“Frogs are bioindicators, which means they can help alert us of the health of their environment that they live in,” said Shannon Rasinski, Kanabec County District Conservationist. Rasinski said the cause of this frog’s malformations would be hard to pinpoint without extensive, site-specific research. While this five-legged frog may not indicate a specific threat, Rasinski said water quality should be on everyone’s mind.
“We are all connected by water in one way or another. Having clean water is something Minnesotans expect and when the water quality is impaired it can affect them greatly. It can inhibit folks from swimming and fishing in certain water bodies, or using it for drinking water or other uses,” Rasinski said.
Several area lakes were added to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s list of impaired waters for having excess nutrients (such as phosphorus) and/or excess E. coli concentrations including Ann Lake, Ann River, Fish Lake, Knife Lake, Quamba Lake and Pokegama Lake.
Five Kanabec County lakes and portions of seven different rivers or creeks are listed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as impaired waters.
Excess phosphorus and nitrogen in waters are often associated with agricultural fertilizers, livestock manure, grass clippings or other vegetation finding their way into lakes and streams. The excess nutrients are what cause algae blooms and green, weedy lakes in the summer.
Overall, the water quality in Kanabec County, particularly in the Snake River Watershed, is considered good but gradually worsens as the landscape changes from forests and wetlands in the north to cropland and pastureland further south.
Paul Hoppe, Kanabec County Soil and Water Conservation District, District 3 supervisor said, “I think we have been lucky. It’s not that we’ve done the right thing and made good decisions necessarily. I think we have been fortunate. I am not so sure we can continue to rely on that in the future.”
Hoppe said two areas of concern with local waters is contamination with phosphorus and fecal coliform, both of which can come from agricultural runoff. Focusing on planting more buffer strips would certainly help in this area.
Buffers are small strips of land that are permanently planted with vegetation. These strips are designed to keep pollutants from flowing off of farm fields and prevent erosion.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Kanabec County Soil and Water Conservation District often work together to help landowners plan and implement practices which help improve soil and water quality.
These projects, some of which have the potential for financial assistance, include reducing tillage, planning rotational grazing systems, and improving feedlot systems to reduce runoff. Other projects include planting rain gardens and shoreland buffers.
Hoppe said good conservation practices are typically good for the farm as a business.
“Good conservation supports farming, good farming supports conservation,” he said.
Rasinski said maintaining good water quality is dependent on land owners and users to make the choice to be good stewards.
She said, “Voluntary conservation is critical to improving water quality. Everyone has the responsibility and privilege to do what you can to make our little corner of the world a great place to live and work.”
Overall, Hoppe said he had hope for the future of Kanabec waters if area landowners continue in their prevention efforts.
“We’ve gotten a lot done and things are getting better but we’ve got a lot to do … I am optimistic about the outcomes. It’s achievable. It’s doable.”
How to Help
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, there are many things people can do to help maintain or improve water quality.
- Contact the Kanabec County Soil and Water Conservation District at 320-679-3781 to see how they can help or if they have suggestions particular to your farm.
- Plant buffer strips along bodies of water to filter sediment and nutrients from runoff
- Use crop nutrients like fertilizers and manure as efficiently as possible
- Use cover crops to prevent soil erosion and prevent nitrogen from leaching into groundwater
- Support a natural shoreline habitat with native plants
- Grow a water-friendly lawn and garden. Keep leaves and grass clippings out of streets and storm drains.
- Avoid disposing of medicines by flushing them down the toilet
- Use sidewalk salt sparingly
- Maintain your septic system properly — a poorly functioning septic system can allow pathogens, nutrients, and other chemicals to enter groundwater or lakes and streams.
Local water resources:
The Snake River Watershed Management Board
- Teresa Wickeham, coordinator 320-679-6456
Kanabec Soil and Water Conservation District
- Deanna Pomije, District Manager deanna@KanabecSWCD.org (320) 679-3781
Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Shannon Rasinski, District Conservationist firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirsten Faurie is the editor of the Kanabec County Times.