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Is Your Neighborhood Pond a Cesspool?

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April 28, 2010

Is Your Neighborhood Pond a Cesspool?

By Chad Love

Many Americans live in suburban housing developments that, by necessity, are built around stormwater run-off ponds. Developers generally build greenbelts and walking trails around these ponds and they become communal greenspaces where we take our kids fishing, jog, or train our dogs. But according to a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, these neighborhood ponds are more like cesspools.

The local neighborhood pond fringed with spring green looks attractive, but its muddy bottom is loaded with contaminants. Metro communities from White Bear Lake and Maplewood to South St. Paul are discovering that their storm-water ponds are chemical soups of pesticides, fertilizers, pet wastes, oil, grease and other contaminants. With an estimated 20,000 public storm-water ponds in the metro area, and thousands more privately owned by industries and homeowner associations, state pollution officials say they expect the problem to be widespread. "It took us aback, frankly," said Mark Burch, White Bear Lake's public works director. "Especially when we figured out how much it would cost" to clean up. On Tuesday, the city is poised to adopt the state's first ordinance -- and only the fourth in the nation -- to ban coal-tar sealants spread on driveways and parking lots. The sealants, among the worst culprits in the contamination, contain chemical compounds that are classified as likely carcinogens, and are known as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).

Comments (11)

Top Rated
All Comments
from seadog wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

I don't think I even want to know what's in the man-made "lake" behind my house. I've never landed a fish with 2 heads or 3 eyes, but it's strictly catch & release, or catch & kill with snakeheads.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

There is a large man made lake near me that has been almost unusable for a few years. The local DNR and EPA banned all swimming in the lake, told fishermen not to eat the fish and even went as far as to tell fishermen that small children shouldn't be touching the fish. The water is so polluted with farm runoff that by the end of the summer the water is beautiful neon green color from all the algae and light refracting off the oil slicks. Luckily, they have a plan to clean it up and will supposedly be back to swimming in it and eating the fish within five year. Hopefully it works.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Alot of these ponds they're talking of are detention ponds, that are doing what they were intended to do. Detention ponds are designed to catch runoff and hold it for a period of time to allow sedimentation to settle along with other contaminates, before being released into a river, stream, or public storm/sanitary lines. So the "Unexpected" consiquences of this is assinine by Minneapolis politicians. They and the EPA are the ones who require these ponds. Maybe they should research what these ponds intentional uses were for and they would see that they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing!

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

I think you hit the nail on the head Dcast. I lived near one of those shallow storm (I think it's called Retention- Detention is what happened to us in high school) ponds for awhile in the Minneapolis suburbs and I always wanted to put a few carp is so I could have some fun. I never saw a fish in there and I was always looking but a muskrat sure liked living there.
There are by the way many beautiful and clean lakes in the Metro area filled with gamefish and awesome beaches for swimming.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 86Ram wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Good Article, It doesn't surprise me though with the amount of work it goes into lawncare in those communities, the small vehicle leaks that wash down the storm drains, the runoff from hot asphault, the amount of pets that trot near the ponds, the stuff people throw in their trash etc.

It's gotten there the same way it got into our rivers, lakes and oceans.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bance65 wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

What this article doesn't tell you that an environmental forensic analysis was done on the sediment and it was discovered that the source of the PAHs in those ponds are from combustion sources (ex. vehicle exhaust). What the paper failed to mention is that MN passed a law last year that would provide state funds for storm basin clean outs, only if the municipalities would ban the refined tar based sealer. You would not think that the state would have to resort to those tactics if the science is sound.

In my eyes this is a clear case of the precautionary principle in action.

The sealer which they feel will give them less problem also contains PAHs and will only last one third to one half the time the refined tar based sealer will.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from pigkillersrus wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

sad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

there is such a thing as detention ponds- here's a little clarification;
A water detention pond, by definition, detains water. When an area is paved, or covered with a building,
water runs off the property much faster than when it is in a natural state. The total amount of discharge
is the same, but the discharge happens over a shorter amount of time. A hydrologist will design a water
detention pond to temporarily detain the water and keep the runoff to the desired rate. When the rain
ends, though, the water detention pond will be empty shortly afterwards.

A water retention pond, on the other hand, retains water all the time. The pond level may go up and down,
but ordinarily the pond has some water in it. So, if the pond is typically empty except during and shortly
after rain or other precipitation, it is a detention pond. If the pond always has water in it, then it is
a retention pond.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Stick 500, You are correct on your definitions. I always say detention because most people look at me like I'm stupid if I say retention pond, because they've never heard of it or new the difference between the two. I' m a designer(low paid architect)for a construction company and most cities do not know the difference. Any how spot on!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

A little side note. Our neighborhoods aren't cesspools! Washington DC is!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Very sad. I regularly fish a small neighborhood pond and have eaten the fish several times. In my opinion if they can survive in it it's fine, but who knows?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Dcast wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Alot of these ponds they're talking of are detention ponds, that are doing what they were intended to do. Detention ponds are designed to catch runoff and hold it for a period of time to allow sedimentation to settle along with other contaminates, before being released into a river, stream, or public storm/sanitary lines. So the "Unexpected" consiquences of this is assinine by Minneapolis politicians. They and the EPA are the ones who require these ponds. Maybe they should research what these ponds intentional uses were for and they would see that they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing!

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

There is a large man made lake near me that has been almost unusable for a few years. The local DNR and EPA banned all swimming in the lake, told fishermen not to eat the fish and even went as far as to tell fishermen that small children shouldn't be touching the fish. The water is so polluted with farm runoff that by the end of the summer the water is beautiful neon green color from all the algae and light refracting off the oil slicks. Luckily, they have a plan to clean it up and will supposedly be back to swimming in it and eating the fish within five year. Hopefully it works.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

I don't think I even want to know what's in the man-made "lake" behind my house. I've never landed a fish with 2 heads or 3 eyes, but it's strictly catch & release, or catch & kill with snakeheads.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 86Ram wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Good Article, It doesn't surprise me though with the amount of work it goes into lawncare in those communities, the small vehicle leaks that wash down the storm drains, the runoff from hot asphault, the amount of pets that trot near the ponds, the stuff people throw in their trash etc.

It's gotten there the same way it got into our rivers, lakes and oceans.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bance65 wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

What this article doesn't tell you that an environmental forensic analysis was done on the sediment and it was discovered that the source of the PAHs in those ponds are from combustion sources (ex. vehicle exhaust). What the paper failed to mention is that MN passed a law last year that would provide state funds for storm basin clean outs, only if the municipalities would ban the refined tar based sealer. You would not think that the state would have to resort to those tactics if the science is sound.

In my eyes this is a clear case of the precautionary principle in action.

The sealer which they feel will give them less problem also contains PAHs and will only last one third to one half the time the refined tar based sealer will.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

there is such a thing as detention ponds- here's a little clarification;
A water detention pond, by definition, detains water. When an area is paved, or covered with a building,
water runs off the property much faster than when it is in a natural state. The total amount of discharge
is the same, but the discharge happens over a shorter amount of time. A hydrologist will design a water
detention pond to temporarily detain the water and keep the runoff to the desired rate. When the rain
ends, though, the water detention pond will be empty shortly afterwards.

A water retention pond, on the other hand, retains water all the time. The pond level may go up and down,
but ordinarily the pond has some water in it. So, if the pond is typically empty except during and shortly
after rain or other precipitation, it is a detention pond. If the pond always has water in it, then it is
a retention pond.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from stick500 wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

I think you hit the nail on the head Dcast. I lived near one of those shallow storm (I think it's called Retention- Detention is what happened to us in high school) ponds for awhile in the Minneapolis suburbs and I always wanted to put a few carp is so I could have some fun. I never saw a fish in there and I was always looking but a muskrat sure liked living there.
There are by the way many beautiful and clean lakes in the Metro area filled with gamefish and awesome beaches for swimming.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from pigkillersrus wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

sad.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Stick 500, You are correct on your definitions. I always say detention because most people look at me like I'm stupid if I say retention pond, because they've never heard of it or new the difference between the two. I' m a designer(low paid architect)for a construction company and most cities do not know the difference. Any how spot on!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

A little side note. Our neighborhoods aren't cesspools! Washington DC is!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman wrote 3 years 51 weeks ago

Very sad. I regularly fish a small neighborhood pond and have eaten the fish several times. In my opinion if they can survive in it it's fine, but who knows?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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