This Memorial Day weekend, many Minnesotans will be performing the time-honored ritual of opening the lake cabin for the summer.
But with more than 1,000 lakes on the state's impaired waters list, and more being added, cabin owners have extra incentive to make sure they're taking steps to help protect lakes from pollution. Here are some to keep in mind for the start of the new season:
- Do you keep your shoreline in natural condition? If not, maybe this is the year to make the switch. Simply leaving an unmowed buffer at the shoreline can be a big help to water quality. Also, leaving "emergent" aquatic vegetation (shallow-water plants) in place provides great habitat for fish.
- Avoid fertilizing the lawn. Nutrient runoff is a primary source of water pollution.
- Take care of your septic tank. Not sure when to get it pumped out? It depends on how much water you use. Seasonal properties may get by for years without pumping. On the other hand, if you use a lot of water, every three years may not be enough. Ask your county or U of M Extension Service.
- Protect the waterfowl on your lake by exchanging lead-containing fishing tackle for new, lead-free gear.
- When cleaning up outside, remember that backyard garbage burning is illegal statewide, even for cabins. There are some exceptions to the law, but they're for farmers only. For more information on backyard garbage burning go to www.pca.state.mn.us/oea/reduce/burnbarrel.cfm. For more information on obtaining the appropriate permit for burning approved vegetation, contact your local fire marshal or Department of Natural Resources office.
- Don't drain last year's gas from the mower or outboard onto the ground; use it up by mixing with fresh fuel.
- Does your lake have a lake association? Consider joining it or starting one. Water quality is one of the primary concerns for such groups.
- Become a volunteer water monitor. MPCA has volunteer monitoring programs for both lakes and streams and would love to hear from you.
Minnesotans love our lakes. Keeping them clean is everybody's job. For more information on how to protect lakes and improve water quality, check the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us/water/lake.html.
The mission of the MPCA is to work with Minnesotans to protect, conserve and improve our environment and enhance our quality of life. Find out more at www.pca.state.mn.us.