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Column: A cleaner river starts with clean streets

Erosion is still the No. 1 cause of water pollution in the Mississippi River and it is pretty obvious that "Old Muddy" is shorthand for all of those suspended solids which darken the water and clog Lake Pepin.

You would think that that with all of the high water this year, the river would be flushing itself clean, but the opposite is true because rising tributaries actually scour away more soil and sediment.

Most other pollutants are not as obvious as turbidity, which means stirred up sediment. Nitrogen pollution, for example, is mostly caused by agricultural fertilizer run-off and remains the No. 1 cause of the New Hampshire sized dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Surely, all of the billions of gallons of fresh water from the Mississippi River would seem to help that deadly situation; but, unfortunately, increased run-off actually makes it worse.

Fortunately, around here, most surface waters are getting cleaner.

Public awareness and outrage have championed clean water legislation. Federal laws, resulting in things such as Red Wing's Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, have set high standards for cleaner

water. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been enforcing those laws to make sure that eventually all of our waters are fishable and swimmable.

We can all be proud that Minnesota citizens have demanded clean water and have voted to pay for it.

Everybody has a stake in clean water, so it is important to remember that individual actions can change big problems into big solutions. Most people are doing a good job of keeping grass clippings out of the street, however, erosion from driveways and sidewalks can be just as big of a problem if not addressed.

Property owners are responsible for any run-off from their property. Erosion from private property can clog our streets and storm sewers and property owners may have to pay for street sweeping and storm sewer repairs caused by erosion. Sometimes, minor erosion repairs can save major wash-out expenses.

Most storm sewers from our streets go straight to our rivers and streams. The city of Red Wing fights stormwater pollution by sweeping our streets at least three times per year, but that isn't really that often.

In the meantime, between sweeps, please help to keep grass clippings and erosion out of your own street. "Old Muddy" is already loaded with pollution, so, please do your part to stop Red Wing's storm sewers from adding any more.

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