Water quality related to storm water run-off
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," a wise man once said. Jay Michels of Northland NEMO (Nonpoint source pollution Education for Municipal Officials) quoted Albert Einstein's famous saying du...
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," a wise man once said.
Jay Michels of Northland NEMO (Nonpoint source pollution Education for Municipal Officials) quoted Albert Einstein's famous saying during a presentation, "Linking Land Use Decisions and Water Quality," at Menahga City Hall Tuesday night.
You can bet that when Einstein died in 1955, one of the last things intriguing his genius mind was not stormwater management, although he might wish that he had invented it first.
In a whirl of matter-of-fact expressions, startling statistics and encouraging success stories, Michels presented information that many had probably never heard of before about pollution, alternatives to current stormwater techniques and what other communities have accomplished.
"What you hear may scare you because you have never heard it before, but I'm going to show you what you can do," Michels forewarned audience members.
He wasn't pushy, although it is hard not to buy into these new concepts - rain gardens vs. "curb, gutter, pipes and ponds," asphalt parking lots vs. cellular confinement grass lots, vegetation vs. pipe, open vs. closed.
"The new world of design principals mimic nature," said Michels, co-author of "The Minnesota Stormwater Manual" and a former planning commission member for the city of Stillwater who, ironically, also worked in the asphalt business for 14 years.
Michels explained how nonpoint source pollution (toxic contaminants, thermal stress, debris, pathogens and nutrients) is the No. 1 water quality problem in the United States. The other statistics are endless: 50 percent of septic systems are not in compliance, 40 percent of the 10 percent of Minnesota lakes studied to date don't meet water quality standards, 58 percent of Minnesotans surveyed said it's okay to dump contaminants into storm sewer drains.
The numbers may speak for themselves, but Michels' accounts of city projects aimed at preventing these frightening statistics were uplifting: an overflow parking lot in Hartford, CT, consisting of a cellular confinement system underneath a grass blanket, the first common septic system in the state in Stillwater, rain gardens instead of curb and gutter in a Little Falls industrial park. The list goes on.
Michels pointed out how Menahga's Spirit Lake is not on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Impaired Waters List, calling it a "gem" for the community. He commended the city for its successful use of a sand filtration system for the lake, recommending other possibilities for the future.
It is difficult to find reasons not to turn your thinking around - these alternatives are often 50 percent less expensive than traditional methods, prevent stormwater runoff, sometimes reverse existing problems and allow citizens to "buy into" their community through volunteer project labor.
"It takes a sales job," Michels told the city council. "It takes enthusiasm. You really have to be an advocate."
Menahga community members, the Menahga City Council and Kari Tomperi of the Wadena County Soil and Water Conservation District should be applauded for inviting NEMO in and digesting this new information.
NEMO's - and many other communities' - "can do and more" attitudes are an example for us all.