From rain barrels to rain gardens, Willmar residents can help city keep pollutants out of stormwater – West Central Tribune – Low Calorie Diets Tips

WILLMAR – Residents of the City of Willmar are encouraged to do their part to keep the city’s stormwater as contaminant-free as possible by engaging in good management practices on their property.

Sara Sietsema, environmental specialist for the city of Willmar, shared some of these practices during her annual stormwater report with the city council at the June 6 meeting. The report is a prerequisite for the general permitting program for the municipal separate storm sewer system.

Stormwater is rainwater and snowmelt that drains from impervious surfaces such as streets, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and rooftops through catch basins or gullies into a city’s stormwater sewage system. It is then discharged untreated into lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. The city’s stormwater system also includes driveways, parking lots, streets, alleys, and sidewalks.

“Rain barrels are a goal (best management practice),” Sietsema told the council. “You just put out a rain barrel and then water your flowers and your garden, and pretty soon you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I can have a rain garden.’ And then you say, ‘Maybe I want a bee lawn, I don’t want to mow that at all.’ It is a gateway (best management practice) for storm water.”

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the rainwater collected can be used for purposes that would otherwise require tap water. In addition, the water that is captured and used for irrigation in yards and gardens, for example, removes solids, nutrients, metals, pathogens and toxins that would otherwise have flowed into the storm sewer.

As part of the City of Willmar’s Water Butt Sharing Program, residents can purchase up to four water butts at a reduced price from the City of Willmar. According to Sietsema, the city buys the water butts in bulk at cost to pass the savings on to residents. According to the city’s website, the current cost per rain barrel is $55.

Another way city residents can help is by establishing a stormwater drain in the city and keeping it clean year-round by clearing it of leaves, trash, and other debris year-round.

To learn more about the Adopt-a-Drain or Rain Barrel cost-sharing programs, contact Sietsema at 320-235-4760, ext. 7425.

Rain gardens can help filter pollutants before water enters the city’s stormwater system or groundwater. They are planted in a low area that allows rainwater to seep in from hard surfaces such as roofs, driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots.

A rain garden also helps prevent erosion by holding the soil in place with the deep roots of the plants used. It also attracts birds and butterflies and requires little watering and maintenance once set up, according to the University of Minnesota Extension website.

The Kandiyohi County Soil and Water Conservation District can help residents determine if a rain garden is appropriate for their lawn and provide funds to plant a rain garden on their property. To learn more about the rain garden program, contact the district at 320-235-3906.

Other good management practices include “cutting in” when mowing lawns to keep grass clippings out of the gutter, using less salt on sidewalks and driveways, keeping leaves out of the gutter, and picking up pet waste. Failure to protect the stormwater system from these things can result in a misdemeanor charge as of a June 2021 update to the Surface Water Management Ordinance.

Pollutants of concern include salt, sediment, grass clippings, leaves, pesticides and fertilizers, oil, bedding and animal waste. A more recent pollutant of concern, according to Sietsema, is fluoride, which can damage aquatic habitats.

In 2018, the city began using brine to treat its streets against ice and snow during the winter months. “The brine is generally a more effective winter maintenance product than granular salt,” Sietsema said. The use of brine has reduced the city’s salt consumption by almost 50%.

To reduce the amount of pollutants entering the city’s stormwater system, state permits require cities to create regulatory mechanisms related to water volume, quality treatment requirements, proper salt storage, and animal waste. According to Sietsema, regulatory mechanisms could be a regulation, a rule or a contract.

Another new requirement is a written snow and ice management policy and maintenance staff training.

“You may see me a few more times about these regulatory mechanisms before the end of the year,” Sietsema said.

About the city’s rainwater prevention program

There are six areas of the city’s stormwater prevention program:

  • Detection of unauthorized discharges and their prevention from entering the system;
  • Controlling stormwater runoff from construction sites through inspections to ensure soil and sediment control practices are in place;
  • Post-construction stormwater management through annual inspection of stormwater ponds and drainage structures;
  • pollution prevention and good housekeeping;
  • public education and outreach; and,
  • Civic Participation and Participation.

An unauthorized discharge is any discharge into the stormwater system that is not made entirely of stormwater, such as
Recently, the City of Willmar tested sections of sewer downtown and near the BNSF railway station and discovered an uncovered storm sewer cleanup in a private parking lot that was repaired and a section of badly damaged plumbing pipe that was re-lined to contain stormwater prevent pollution and groundwater infiltration.

The city prevents pollution of the stormwater system and practices good housekeeping itself through its two street sweepers, which operate when the snow has cleared the streets. The street sweepers collect almost 5,000 cubic meters of salt, sand, grass clippings, leaves and other debris annually.

“It is our responsibility to protect both surface water and groundwater from rainwater pollution,” Sietsema said.

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