Waterway Threat

Bacteria closes beaches along Lake SuperiorIn urban and suburban areas, much land surface is covered by buildings and pavement, which does not allow rain and snowmelt to soak into the ground. Instead, most developed areas rely on storm drains to carry large amounts of runoff from roofs and paved areas to nearby waterways. The stormwater runoff carries pollutants such as car oil, sediment, chemicals, bacteria from pet wastes, thermal pollution from dark roads and roof tops, and road salts directly to streams and rivers, where they seriously harm water quality.

These pollutants can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water supplies, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.

The most recent National Water Quality Inventory reports that runoff from urbanized areas is the leading source of water quality impairments to surveyed estuaries and the third-largest source of impairments to surveyed lakes.

Sediment contamination in the St. Louis River has closed areas to swimming As a result of the impacts caused by stormwater pollutants, the International Joint Commission has identified urban runoff as a significant source of contaminant inputs to the Great Lakes Areas of Concern (the St. Louis River/Bay is a designated AOC). A US EPA report on stormwater identified heavy metals (especially copper, lead and zinc) as the most prevalent priority pollutants found in urban runoff. Total suspended solids concentrations in urban runoff are fairly high as well. A study of Miller Creek (Duluth) conducted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 1994 found that heavy metals (specifically copper, lead and zinc) and total suspended solids were in excess of standards set for the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District and/or the state of Minnesota.

In addition, urban development often requires the filling in of wetland areas. Wetlands are critical habitats that store floodwaters, purify pollutants from waters, and provide fish and wildlife habitat. The destruction of wetland areas reduces ecological diversity, habitat and water quality.

Sweetwater Alliance's Response:

Cleanup of the Interlake Superfund site in the banks of the St. Louis River In collaboration with citizens, engineers, artists and scientists we will create ecologically designed green space that will cleanse stormwater and educate the public about land use and water quality issues. Our work is citizen based, maintains a strong educational focus, and is ecologically sound.
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