Posts tagged water quality

Going green – not just for St. Paddy’s Day anymore – and inside Clipper wind

   Going green used to be reserved for St. Patrick’s Day.

Not anymore.

   In the past few years, “green” has taken on a different meaning – a movement that embraces an environmentally friendly way of living. The Homegrown blog has always shared in that philosophy and now it’s expanding. Gardening will remain an integral part of the blog, but it will also include the “home” side of Homegrown, as well, with tips and ideas for maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle, both indoors and out.

 

   With the state’s Environmental Protection Commission in Cedar Rapids for a meeting and tour of Clipper Turbine Works,  I thought this would be a good time to launch the Homegrown eco-blog.

 

   The Environmental Protection Commission is a panel of nine Iowans who provide policy oversight for Iowa’s environmental protection efforts. Members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by a vote of the senate for  four-year terms. Air and water quality surrounding Iowa’s confined animal feeding operations, requirements regarding underground storage tanks and climate change are some of the issues the commission addresses. 

 Two local members are Marty Stimson, a top manager at Clipper Turbine Works in Cedar Rapids, and Shearon Elderkin of Cedar Rapids.

Shearon has served on the Friends of the Linn County Conservation Board, Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Cedar Rapids Garden Club, and the 1000 Friends of Iowa Board. She also has served on the Linn County Conservation Board and the Linn County Integrated Roadside Management Committee.

 

   On Monday, March 16, the commission toured Clipper Turbine Works’ plant at 4601 Bowling St. SW. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside, but Marty let me take a shot of him outdoors, next to the 150-foot-long blade in front of the plant. The blades aren’t actually manufactured in Cedar Rapids. The Liberty turbines that are made here include the machine base, gearbox and huge hubs, which look like a deep-sea diving helmet out of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

 

   Commission member Suzanne Morrow of Storm Lake said the group takes tours a few times a year to get a better understanding of some of the issues they consider. Marty offered background on Clipper and led the commission members through the plant, along with visitors, two members of the Department of Natural Resources and Rich Leopold, director of the DNR.

 

   The plant itself is “recycled,” formerly serving as FMC Corp. and the former Goss plant. It has 330,000-square-feet for manufacturing and 30,000 for office space. Earlier this year, Clipper laid off about 80 employees, going from a workforce of 350 to 270 in Cedar Rapids. Marty said no orders had been cancelled, but some had been deferred until the economy recovers.  In fact, the plant has been increasing the number of turbines produced from eight in 2006, to 137 in 2007 to 300 last year. It will eventually reach a maximum productivity of 500 to 550 turbines produced per year, Marty predicted.

 

   Each 2.5-megawatt Liberty wind turbine costs about $3 million, or just over $3.5 million with installation. Iowa has risen to second in the nation in wind power, with 2,790 megawatts installed, surpassing California, which has 2,517 mw, in third. Texas is the leader in wind power.

   Every 1,000 megawatts provides enough electricity to power 300,000 homes and enough to offset 3.4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

   One impediment in providing a steady supply is the nation’s power grid, but Rich Leopold sees hope in President Obama’s stimulus package, which is directing $50 to $60 million to Iowa for energy efficiency, with an additional amount attached to the development of a “smart grid” that can allow wind farms to connect into the grid, a need especially in rural areas.

 

 

Marty Stimson at Clipper Turbine Works

Marty Stimson at Clipper Turbine Works

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Runoff resolution

With the copious amounts of rainfall Eastern Iowa has received this spring, the Iowa Storm Water Education Program offers the following timely advice on lawns, runoff and water quality:

 

 

 

Can a Healthy Lawn Improve Water Quality?

 

 

   If you live in a newer neighborhood, chances are that during construction the valuable topsoil was removed from the site (and may even have been sold) and what remains is heavy clay subsoil.

    Heavy equipment was driven across this soil causing compaction. Then, once construction was completed and lawn preparation began, the compacted soil was lightly scraped, a thin layer of topsoil added, and sod applied over the top of that. In most cases, the lawn now functions similar to placing sod on top of a concrete block!

    The soil is so heavily compacted that the roots can’t penetrate to obtain the necessary nutrients from subsurface soils. This results in having to water frequently and over apply lawn chemicals.

     Rainfall that runs off compacted lawns, driveways, parking lots, rooftops, and streets flows into the storm drains. It is not directed to a wastewater treatment plant, but simply discharged, untreated, directly into local streams and lakes. The major concern with this is all the excess fertilizer, pesticides, motor vehicle fluids and sediment that accumulates on compacted lawns, driveways, parking lots and streets. These pollutants, carried along with the rainfall runoff, contaminate and severely pollute and impair our local waterways.

     What can you do to change this situation? There are a number of key things you can do with your own property. The starting point is to soak up as much of the rainfall on your property as you can, so that it doesn’t flow into the street. If your lawn is of the compacted type described above, chances are, it is not helping to reduce the runoff.

     Here are a few suggestions:

• Restore the health of your lawn by aerating and then apply a thin (1/4-1/2”) layer

of compost and seed.

• Use fertilizers containing zero phosphorus (the middle number on the fertilizer

bag indicates the quantity of phosphorus). Sweep up any fertilizer that is spread

onto sidewalks, driveways or streets and spread it back on the lawn.

• Use native landscaping and native turf in your yard.

 

     We all need to protect and improve the water quality in our streams and lakes. Please think about doing your part!

     Visit http://www.iowastormwater.org to learn more about storm water issues and contact your local community for additional educational information on storm water management.

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