Green report

Another bump in the road for compost pilot program

Linden Hills’ compost pilot program has hit another snag.

“Unfortunately, I can load it on the trucks. I just can’t put it anywhere,” said Susan Young, director of the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling division.

Young has spearheaded the project, which would bring curbside collection of compost to Linden Hills. The City Council gave its green light more than seven months ago, but collection had to be put on hold until the state approved a change in a law to allow Source Separated Organics (SSO) — pizza boxes, paper towels, etc. — and yard waste to be combined in the same container.

Legislative approval came at the end of May, at which time Young said brochures would be printed within days and pickups could begin by the beginning of July.

But then she found out she had no place to take the compost.

Felicity Britton, of the nonprofit Linden Hills Power and Light, said hopes had been to take the compost, once collected, to a nearby location. That’s been hard to find, it turns out. One destination could be Hutchinson, but that’s about an hour away. Shakopee also is too far and too expensive, Young said.

Resource Recovery Technologies facilities, which provide sustainable disposal and recycling, were a top candidate, but Britton said they recently announced they couldn’t accept any new customers.

That leaves few options, Young said, because she’s found many other places don’t accept yard waste combined with SSO. She said she remains hopeful, though — she’s just not ready to provide a timeline for when the program will be up and running.

“It sounds like it’s really wishy-washy,” Young said. “But we’re trying to work it out.”

Tap water struck with bad taste, bad odor

This can’t bode well for Mayor R.T. Rybak’s campaign to end the use of bottled water: Minneapolis water customers have been complaining of a bad taste and odor coming from their taps.

A July 9 news release said Minneapolis Water Works is working to neutralize those symptoms, which are an occurrence usually saved for spring.

The likely culprit is melting snow that through lakes, streams and ground water feeds into the Mississippi River. Because the sources are so varied, the Mississippi’s water taste and odor can change in very little time. The release also pointed a finger at naturally occurring algae and other aquatic plants, which are noticeable at traces as small as five parts per million.

The release said that despite the grossness factor, the water is completely safe to drink. Although water treatment plants filter and disinfect the water — and thus remove most organic material — tastes and odors can’t always be completely eliminated.

City spokesman Matt Laible said complaints originated from all over the city, including Southwest locations. That’s not surprise, he said, as all residents’ water comes from the same source.

County awards contamination cleanup grants

The Hennepin County Board awarded $1.8 million in grants to assess or clean up contamination in 13 locations throughout the county.

The Environmental Response Fund grants program helps pay where insufficient funding has made it difficult to deal with contamination. Public spaces, sites meant for affordable housing and locations that help in economic development receive priority.

Included in the sites are several Southwest projects, such as the renovation and redevelopment of the Salem English Lutheran Church and its surrounding property. That project will receive $35,000 to assess for asbestos contamination, to investigate whether there are old structures buried beneath the site and to gauge how much petroleum remains there from a long-gone gas station, said Peggy Lucas of Brighton Development Corp.

A 237-unit apartment project at 2838 Fremont Ave. is receiving $70,050 for contamination cleanup at its site, the former location of Acme Tag and Label Company.

And Standard Heating and Air Conditioning, currently located in Southwest, is looking to move north. It’s receiving $88,702 for contamination cleanup at its future site north of Downtown.

The grants program is funded by a county mortgage registry and deed tax and, since 2001, has awarded 171 grants totaling $21 million, according to a county news release.

Urban trees need residents’ help

For the most part, July has been hot and dry and while it’s been inconveniencing our sweat glands and our electric bills, it’s  also been risking the survival of young trees throughout the city.

Because of that, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s forestry division is asking residents to help water trees age five or younger.

Here are some tips:

• Use a garden hose and leave it dripping water at a slow rate for two hours.

• The best time to water is from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.

• Use leftover ice or water — from a picnic cooler, for example — and pour it under a tree.

For more information, go to the Park Board website, www.minneapolisparks.org, or call the forestry division, 370-4900.

Green report

A few tips to keep our water fresh

With temperatures up and pools open, this is the season of water use. That’s why the city has sent out a reminder about what not to do around water, to make sure it stays clean or as not contaminated as possible.

(1) Storm drains are not for dumping. They flow directly into the Mississippi River and the city’s lakes and creeks. Soapy water, cigarette butts, garbage — it all goes into what you could swim in or drink from. Also, don’t get grass clippings, leaves and dirt on the street. The city recommends mulching or composting leaves and collecting other yard waste for pickup. And never hose down the driveway or sidewalk — the debris ends up going down the drain.

(2) Don’t leave your pet’s waste lying around. Not only is it the law to pick it up, it’s also healthy. Leaving it out is hazardous to people’s well-being, especially that of children who know no better than to touch or eat it. Furthermore, it could end up going down the drain or directly into any of the city’s waterways. Don’t pick it up, and you could get fined $25 — an amount that doubles each additional time you’re caught.

(3) Wash your car, but not at home. The city recommends not hosing down your driveway to prevent debris from ending up in storm drains. Imagine the soapy scum you rinse off your car every time you wash it. That’s why Minneapolis tells residents to head to a commercial car wash. An alternative is washing your car in the grass, but be sure to only use non-phosphorus cleaners as some stormwater runs off of grassy areas.

Green Institute faces financial hurdles

Tough economic times have fallen upon the Green Institute, the homegrown Minneapolis nonprofit that promotes environmental sustainability.

Based in East Phillips but a consultant citywide, the institute apparently is falling behind on paying back a loan to the city.

According to a staff report presented to the City Council’s Community Development Committee on June 24, institute business was strong until the last two months of 2007. It has deteriorated ever since, to the point that the institute is planning on closing the newest of its three ReUse Centers — which sell salvaged and reusable building materials — within two months.

While the institute was unable to make loan payments on time in August, the city didn’t take action until February, when the institute provided only $9,500 of what was supposed to be a $44,356.80 payment.

The institute took out the loan to build its East Phillips headquarters; it currently is $59,437 delinquent. It also owes the city close to another $185,000 on a past delinquency loan.

“The financial statements indicate that the debt burden is not manageable under the current business model for the Green Institute,” the staff report said.

It provided two options for the future: having the city pay off the institute’s bank loans and possibly end up with long-term operation of the building — unusual for the city — or hire a third-party lease agent or property management firm to take over. Staff recommended the latter option.

Along with running the ReUse Centers, the Green Institute also has consulted on green space policies for the city, presents an annual community garden program and has a representative with the Minnesota GreenStar green-home certification program.

Vote Yes campaign hits festivals

If you’ve attended any recent festivals, you’ve probably seen signs promoting the Vote Yes Minnesota campaign.

Supporters are hoping voters in November will approve a state constitutional amendment — dubbed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment — that would provide as much as $300 million a year for 25 years to protect the state’s environment. The arts also would benefit.

According to promotional materials, if the amendment passes, it would cost the “average Minnesota family” about $56 a year in additional sales tax.

Support for the amendment is coming from all sorts of corners, including from two former governors with opposing political ties. Locally, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board gave its endorsement in May. (If approved, the amendment could feed millions of dollars into the park system.)

To learn more about the campaign, go to yesformn.org.

Mayors step up movement against bottled water

Fresh off the heels of getting the city of Minneapolis to phase out spending on bottled water, Mayor R.T. Rybak joined forces with other U.S. mayors to make it a nationwide trend.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents more than 1,100 mayors, in late June passed a resolution to encourage cities throughout the country to stop bottled-water use and to promote municipal water. Rybak was one of more than a dozen mayors who sponsored the resolution.

A number of restaurateurs, chefs and city leaders in Minneapolis already have pledged to “Think Outside the Bottle,” a national campaign to steer people back toward tap water. Those supporters include Southwest restaurants such as Café Barbette, Common Roots Café and Ecopolitan. The city also has endorsed the campaign.