On Saturday I participated in the 2nd Annual Cannon River Water Festival on Bridge Square in Northfield. It was a great day and was well attended by area residents. The employees of Northfield Construction Company were a major sponsor of the event this year and last year as well. Clean water is a concern of ours as it should be of all Minnesotans.

My invovement was as part of a panel discussion challenged to answer “Can clean water be legislated?” My short answer was that yes, the Legisatlure has a role in restricting some things and implementing others to help clean up Minnesota water. But, I also pointed out that water will never be clean without a good, solid education program. We need to make sure every resident of Minnesota knows the consequences of improper action regarding water quality.

In the construction area there are two things that have huge impacts on water qualtiy: erosion and private sewage systems.

Erosion from construction sites adds huge amounts of silt to our waterways. Besides impeding flow of water and filling in low areas, the silt also carries with it large amounts of phosphorus. Phosphorus is bound in our soils. When erosion occurs, the phosphorus is released into the water. Once in the water one pound of phosphorus can grow upwards of 700 pounds of algae. That sickening green scum you see on area lakes, rivers and streams uses all the available oxygen in the water and chokes out fish and other life. Construction erosion is generally easy to control using silt fencing, settling ponds, etc. We try to monitor run-off on all our sites.

Another problem area in construction arrises from private sewage disposal systems…also called septic systems. A properly operating septic system is a good, responsible way to deal with human waste. A system that is not working properly, or has a pipe connected directly to a ditch or creek is a terrible way to dispose of human wastes. During the planning phase of remodeling work, the responsible thing to do is to have existing septic systems inspected. Many counties are requiring inspections prior to issuing building permits.

At the Water Festival, I noted that many of the people in the audience know the proper action to take when their home roofs decay and start leaking….they have a new roof installed. I’d like to see septic systems elevated to the importance status of a roof. If the homeowner sees soap bubbles coming out of a lawn, or knows there is a constant wet spot in the lawn, that is an indicator of a failing septic system. The system should be checked and corrective measures taken to repair or replace the system. It isn’t right to spread human waste into our natural environment. If your toilets continue to flush, it may not mean “everything is fine” when you have a private sewage disposal system.

I’m very pleased that the Cannon River Wateshed Partnership held a Water Festival again this year.