Feature Stories

The wet wipes clogging the equipment that University of Minnesota’s Onsite Sewage Treatment Program researchers use to study septic system effectiveness were the first clue as to why systems serving adult foster homes experience system failure at a greater rate than other residential treatment systems. Results of a study conducted by staff from the University of Minnesota’s Onsite Sewage Treatment Program at six foster homes in Chisago county show that adult foster care homes produce wastewater that is different than typical residential wastewater, with higher levels of contaminates that may contribute to decreased septic system performance. Bleach and other strong cleaning products for example, interfere with organisms required to break down solids in the wastewater.

Recently the USACE called upon a group of researchers, including Dr. Deborah Swackhamer and Marc Dettman from the University of Minnesota, to determine how adaptive management is currently being utilized in the USACE, and also to make recommendations for improving adaptive management practices within the USACE. The research team conducted several interviews of USACE personnel in an effort to determine how adaptive management is being used in a variety of USACE natural resource management projects.

The USGBC of Minnesota approached UMD Continuing Education about developing an online educational course focusing on stormwater management. In response to this request, UMD Continuing Education partnered with Jesse Schomberg from the Minnesota Sea Grant program to design the Stormwater Management in Cold Climates course. While this course was designed for LEED professionals, anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the issues related to stormwater management will benefit.

Two research projects were awarded funding by the WRC in the 2012 grant competition.

The projects tackle water challenges in Minnesota and the Gulf of Mexico. Pinpointing the sources of excessive nitrogen in the Gulf and creating a framework for sustainable water management in Minnesota will be explored by the projects’ Principle Investigators (PI’s).

An environmental engineer who investigates how infrastructure can protect public health and the environment, LaPara’s recent work has zeroed in on the most pressing threat to modern medicine—the rise of antibiotic resistance in the environment. 

About 300 people crowded into a University of Minnesota theater Tuesday, February 12, 2013, to hear a stimulating, informative – and, ultimately, inspiring — lecture by Sandra Postel, an author and advocate for protecting and conserving the world’s water.

The Freshwater Society interviewed Postel about her work, her goals for the lecture and her hopes for the future. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for clarity and brevity.

In the land of 10,000 lakes, one lake has been the starting place for research with implications for big lakes around the world. According to a study published online this week in Science, University of Minnesota researchers, building from studies of nitrogen levels in Lake Superior, uncovered a good news/bad news scenario for lake health that has long-term, global implications for pollution control efforts.

The project will first develop a protocol for system assessment and then implement the assessment on five sites. The assessment will include evaluating the current system components, identify any deficiencies and provide recommendations for improvements, if needed. Initial grab sampling of wastewater characteristics including flow and effluent quality will be obtained, if accessible, and a sampling protocol developed for the system operator. The first five sites to be evaluated will help develop a risk-based assessment model focusing on site and wastewater characteristics specifically for the MnDOT sites. The remaining 46 sites will be evaluated based on the procedures developed and prioritized based on the risk-based assessment model.

The policy and economics of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, management of surface and groundwater, and the political polarization of science were on the topic menu at the 2013 Minnesota Water Conference, held October 15 and 16, at the St. Paul RiverCentre. The conference opened with the presentation of the Dave Ford Award. Civil Engineering Professor Emeritus Heinz Stefan, a former Dave Ford Award winner, presented this year’s award to Professor John Gulliver (WRS faculty, CE). The award recognizes individuals whose lifetime accomplishments contribute to improving Minnesota's water quality. Stefan enumerated Gulliver’s many professional achievements in studying surface gas transfer early in his career, up to his current role in investigating aeration on turbine blades and in turbine draft tubes to raise dissolved oxygen levels downstream from hydropower stations. Recently, Gulliver and his students developed urban stormwater best management practices that remove nutrients, chemicals, and sediments from urban stormwater runoff. Stefan also noted Gulliver’s significant role as mentor in the lives of his students, “He has had an impact on the development of many engineering students, and has advised over 70 graduate students to the completion of their degrees. Some of them are here with us today.”

University of Minnesota Extension educator Randy Pepin, a former livestock industry consultant, hopes to make grid soil sampling a common practice among farmers who choose to use livestock manure. Grid soil sampling can be a cost effective way for farmers to target their nutrient application while reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the watershed.

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