On February 28, 2023, students from the Youth Eco Solutions (YES!) team at Harbor City International School dove into the topic of water quality during a full-day workshop where local experts taught them about threats to water quality in Duluth and actions that can protect aquatic ecosystems.
Ryan Granlund, Duluth Utility Programs Coordinator, spoke about stormwater programs before taking the group to a city utility shop to see a Vactor, which is a truck with a giant vacuum that sucks debris out of storm drains. The next stop was the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District where students enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of water treatment systems.
After returning to school, Parker Angelos and Lydia Peterson with the City of Duluth Sustainability Office led students in a role-playing activity called The Watershed Game. Dr. Chan Lan Chun, Associate Professor and Senior Research Program Manager with the Department of Civil Engineering and Natural Resources Research Institute at University of MN, Duluth, taught about the impact of road salt on aquatic ecosystems. Students then tested snow samples for chloride pollution.
“The best part of this workshop for me was learning about how the salting of our roads, especially in Duluth MN, has an effect on the quality of our water,” said one student. “I also enjoyed learning about how underground water quality structures are being installed in Duluth in order to capture sediment and other pollutants before the water goes back into the local streams, rivers, and Lake Superior.”
At the end of the workshop, students discussed ideas for projects the team can do to protect water quality in Duluth. Brian Scott, Harbor City teacher and YES! coach, was enthusiastic about the event’s value. “This workshop opens up a ton of possibilities for projects for our students to undertake this year and in the future!” he said.
The Water Quality Workshop was organized by YES! Regional Coordinator Deb Groebner. YES! is a program of Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in partnership with Ney Nature Center. Major support for YES! comes from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), and the National Science Foundation Grant 2147839 with UMN Institute on the Environment.
Photo courtesy of Brian Scott