Classes promote awareness 'of impacts further downstream'

The folks at the University of Minnesota Extension would like to help you keep the environment a little cleaner. Maybe it’s those Golden Gophers who are worried about pollution.

Doug Malchow, an extension educator with the U of M, said the two courses coming to Rochester should help keep our waterways cleaner and save some folks money. The courses, "Turfgrass Maintenance" and "Winter Salt Management for Roads," have been taught in the Twin Cities before, but are new to southeast Minnesota.

Malchow said the road salt course is geared more toward city or county employees who work on road salting crews, while the turfgrass course could be informative to anyone with a yard, as well as folks who work in maintaining large swaths of grass such as landscapers and lawn service workers.

So how exactly does salting the road or cutting the fairways at a golf course affect the environment?

"When the road salt melts that ice or snow, it turns into a brine," Malchow said. That brine affects plants and the freshwater ecosystem. "It can be toxic to plants and freshwater invertebrate. Depending on which organisms that brine comes in contact with, it can affect the whole food chain."


A similar chain of events happens with lawns. For example, if your grass clippings, herbicides or fertilizers get into the storm water system, they will likely make it to the watershed and contaminate our streams, rivers and lakes.

The classes will teach folks proper management techniques that, aside from being ecologically smart, are also economically sound. For example, proper application rates and techniques for road salt can save a city or town money. Or if you water too much after applying a fertilizer, all that grass food will wash away, and you’ll have to fertilize again.

"Most people that are taking care of those large tracts of land should understand, it’s more than just taking care of grass," Malchow said. "It’s important to take care of the grass and be aware of impacts further downstream."

Malchow pointed out that helping the waterways also helps folks enjoy the Zumbro or Mississippi rivers for recreation. After all, a less-polluted river is better for swimming or fishing or, well, just looking at. In fact, the Zumbro River has quite a few miles of impairment, he said.

"We do have a water resources team that does a variety of classes across the state that can help protect the current aquatic environment and even improve the situation," Malchow said. "There are a lot of impaired waters in Minnesota."

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