Green digest // Take a salt survey

Take a salt survey

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is seeking to better understand how district residents use salt to de-ice driveways and sidewalks in the winter through a survey on its website.

The short, nine-question survey quizzes residents on what products they use to control ice and how often they use them. It’s part of a collaborative effort between the district and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency called the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area Chloride Project that aims to better understand and prevent chloride contamination of area waters.

The chloride in de-icing products is carried with melt water into area lakes and waterways where, even at low levels, it can affect the health and diversity of ecosystems, the pollution control agency reports. At higher concentrations chloride is toxic to aquatic organisms such as fish.

The pollution control agency reported that, in 2010, it doubled the number of state waters deemed “impaired” due to chloride. The only known way to remove salts from water is through reverse osmosis, so salts tend to accumulate in the environment winter after winter.

According to the watershed district, the chloride in one teaspoon of road salt can pollute five gallons of water.

Road salt also negatively impacts terrestrial plants by impairing their ability to absorb nutrients. It can even destabilize soil and lead to increased erosion.

The Twin Cities Metropolitan Area Chloride Project aims to reduce the environmental impact of salts, but the first step is understanding where, why and how much chloride is used in de-icing, and the resident survey is part of that first step. Ultimately, the information collected will help the pollution control agency develop a plan to protect waters from chloride and restore impaired waters.

To take the survey, go to the watershed district’s website, minnehahacreek.org. From there, follow a link to the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area Chloride Project to learn more about the study and the environmental impacts of chloride.

The watershed district’s webpage also includes information on which salts are better for the environment and how and when they should be applied for the maximum melting effect. Search for “Snow Removal and Salt” under the “Education” tab on the site’s main page.

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Watershed district planner honored

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District’s director of planning, projects and water conservation won a statewide award for watershed employees in December.

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil resources named James Wisker 2011 Outstanding Watershed District Employee. Wisker coordinates water quality projects in the watershed district’s member communities, including Minneapolis.

One of his significant accomplishments in 2011 was leading a creek restoration and stream bank stabilization project in Hopkins and St. Louis Park, two of the cities the 22-mile creek flows through before reaching Minneapolis. The project was a collaborative effort that, through Wisker, brought together officials in both cities, area residents and business owners with watershed district planners.

Wisker has also been a leader in the ongoing process of revising watershed district rules, the district reported.

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Southwest neighborhoods shine in energy awards

Several Southwest neighborhood organizations were honored at Community Energy Services’ 2011 Outreach Challenge Awards in late October.

The East Calhoun Community Organization won a $5,000 grant for registering the highest percentage of neighborhood participants in the Community Energy Services (CES) home energy visit program. About 18 percent of East Calhoun property owners met with CES energy professionals to evaluate their homes’ energy performance and get tips on reducing utility bills.

The Kingfield Neighborhood Association finished just behind ECCO with nearly 17 percent participation and won a $4,500 grant. Other Southwest organizations in the top ten for participation were the Tangletown Neighborhood Association, Fulton Neighborhood Association, Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Organization and Linden Hills Power & Light.

City Council members John Quincy (Ward 11), Cam Gordon (Ward 2) and Meg Tuthill (Ward 10) were each honored for having 100 percent of the neighborhoods in their wards participate in CES energy programs.

Bryn Mawr finished first in the Implementation Challenge for having nearly 36 percent of homeowners make documented energy efficiency improvements to their homes after going through a home energy audit. The top finish earned the neighborhood organization a $3,000 grant.

Several neighborhood staff members earned their organizations additional grants for their outstanding efforts to increase participation in the CES programs. Sarah Linnes-Robinson of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association won the top prize, a $1,500 grant.

Also honored were Monica Smith, a staff member for the ECCO, East Isles and CIDNA neighborhood organizations and Felicity Britton of Linden Hills Power & Light. Both won $1,000 grants.

Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected]