Eagan's Water Quality Doesn't Depend on Environmentally Intrusive Chemical & Engineering Solutions
Dear Mayor Geagan and City Council Members Michael Maguire, Meg Tilley, Peggy Carlson, and Cyndee Fields,
August l9, 2003
In 2002, the Minnesota legislature enacted Statute 2002,18c.60, a law that prohibits residents of the seven metropolitan counties from using fertilizers containing phosphorus on their lawns, gardens and turf. That law goes into effect January 1, 2004--in 41/2 months. In l998 the City of Eagan built an experimental facility between Hurley Lake and Fish Lake to add aluminum sulfate to the water entering JP47. The intent of the introduction of aluminum sulfate was to prevent phosphorus from reaching Fish Lake. This process produces a toxic sludge that needs to be removed regularly and stored in a toxic waster site for at least 20 years. This sludge has already killed the plants, turtles, fish and macro-invertebrates at the bottom of the food chain in JP47. Eagan now has to legally clean out this pond and restore to its natural wetland state. It is expensive to the environment and expensive to the city to continue the process of adding aluminum sulfate. Phosphorous levels will decrease dramatically when residents will no longer be allowed to use them beginning January 1, 2004. Is it necessary or a good idea to proceed with building holding ponds on Patrick McCarthy's land at a great expense to the city to clean up storm water that will be free of phosphorus fertilizers after January 1, 2004?
We know that there are also less intrusive and very effective ways of cleaning up water. These more environmentally careful methods include growing healthy aquatic vegetation and shoreline plants that naturally clean up phosphorus. Plants that do this include cattails, burreed, arrowhead, bulrush, river bulrush, pickerel weed and sweet flag. Eagan and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources funded and implemented a successful emergent vegetation planting project on Cedar Pond on Diffley Road. Vegetation is much less costly than the process of using aluminum sulfate.
Water also cleans itself if it is allowed to move. Aerating the ponds and lakes would also help clean up the water. The simple process of adding barley straw in bags to the water has helped many communities clean up their ponds and lakes. The barley straw is inexpensive and needs to be put into and removed from the ponds and lakes by individual working people. So it is labor intensive at the beginning and end of using it, but it is inexpensive, natural, and effective. Also if residents would leave at least 15 feet of natural vegetation bordering all lakes and ponds, they would also be helping to clean up the water in Eagan's ponds and lakes.
Eagan needs also to be aware of the problems that will be caused by digging in the proposed area. The water table is eighteen inches below the surface of the earth in this sensitive area. Twenty years ago residents of the area paid to have a very expensive engineering study of the area because there was always water in their basements.
The results of the engineering study revealed that there is a natural channel of water moving under this area on its way to the rivers. Any digging of ponds is going to displace a great quantity of water and undermine the integrity of the homes bordering this area. Personally, we have had to replace drain tile and add a new sump pump this summer. There is still water seeping up from under the basement floor so we need to have more expensive work done if the basement is ever to be dry again. Displacing water by digging ponds and building a road through this area will definitely cause problems for the existing residents.
Finally, Eagan currently has an opportunity to do something really good for the community, for the future and for the earth by implementing the Core Greenway Plan. Local residents, the McKnight Foundation, Patrick McCarthy (the owner of the land that Eagan intends to use for the holding ponds), and natural resource conservation organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy are all are asking the government of Eagan, the Eagan city staff working on water quality, and the whole engineering department of Eagan to reconsider the proposal that would jeopardize the natural beauty and value of this open greenway.
Thank you for considering our concerns.