Community Clean-Ups fight phosphorus pollution

It’s barely spring in Minnesota and your car may still be crusted with road salt.  Leaves, grass clippings and sand increasingly are visible in the streets and along curbsides.

Before long, unless we do something about it, rains may wash all that organic pollution straight into rivers and lakes.

This spring, we all can help protect Minnesota’s clean waters by organizing a Community Clean-Up for Water Quality.

Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality are hands-on clean water protection projects that can be held anywhere leaves and organic debris accumulate on or near paved surfaces.  Volunteers rake, sweep and bag leaves, dirt and debris that has collected on curbs, boulevards and in storm drains each spring and fall.

Any community group — neighbors, a scout troop, a school class, a church committee or a service organization — can lead a clean-up.

Community organizer Janna Caywood, who led clean-ups in the Como Lake neighborhood in St. Paul, enthusiastically supprted the pr ogram. “What fun this has been,” she said. “The Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality are such a terrific program that can be adapted to many community settings and circumstances.”

For the past eight years, The Friends of the Minnesota Valley has successfully used  The Community Clean-Ups for Water Quality Program to keep nitrogen and phosphorus pollution out of the Minnesota River.

Now the Freshwater Society is helping to take this volunteer effort statewide to raise awareness and help local community groups take action to protect and restore Minnesota’s waters.

The Freshwater Society and the Friends of the Minnesota Valley have developed a free Toolkit that offers step-by-step advice on how to organize a Community Clean-Up for Water Quality.

Spring clean-ups are usually scheduled in April, after snowmelt, and before big spring rains.

Dan Miller and the Scott County Clean Water Education Program organized a Community Clean-Up last fall  with National Honor Society members from the Prior Lake Savage Area Schools. “The Toolkit is fantastic,” Miller said. “I was able to reference it if I needed a reminder about when to do certain tasks for planning the Clean-Up.  We hope to make this event an annual activity.”

(Updated Aug. 30, 2013)