(Prepared in 2008)

Wind-N-Wood Water

and What You Can do to Make it Better

 By Emma Eisenbeis (age 11)
and Julie Taiber

 Whether you live on one of our ponds, use it for recreation or just like it for the aesthetics, these tips will help improve overall appearance and health of our ponds – and more importantly, contribute to healthy! drinking water.

This information is also available at www.wind-n-wood.com, where we plan to post future household hazardous waste collection dates and other recycling events in our area.  Feel free to help make our neighborhood “green” by contributing your thoughts and suggestions.


Use fertilizers judiciously

The same fertilizer that makes your lawn green will also accelerate the plant growth in the ponds and potentially contaminate groundwater.  While the Michigan Department of Natural Resources recommends that landowners avoid applying fertilizer and pesticides within 100 feet of a pond


our pond would benefit from a chemical free zone of 15-30 feet.  According to Kevin Eisenbeis (pond committee chair), many pond management experts, including those at MSU Extension, recommend that ponds be served by "no mow zones" and "chemical free" zones (no herbicides, pesticides or fertilizer) of 15 -30 feet.  While a 30 foot  "no mow' buffer may be impractical in a suburban environment (see next section), a 15 or 30 foot chemical free zone is not infeasible, and should be encouraged.  Put another way, while 15 feet is helpful to pond health, 30-100 feet is optimal. 

If this sounds like too big a pill to swallow at once, you can experiment with reducing fertilizers and weed control products by bringing the treatments 5 or 10 feet closer to your house and see if the results are acceptable.  You can also reduce your fertilizer use by alternating years you apply fertilizer and pest control – every year may not be necessary for your lawn. 

If you’re just not sure what do to, take advantage of MSU’s soil testing lab.  They urge “Don’t guess… soil test!”  Don’t assume your plants need fertilizer. Perform a soil test, save money and reduce the chance of over-applying by replacing the nutrients your soil is actually missing. MI State University Extension offers easy-to-use soil nutrient testing and recommends a soil test every two or three years.  (http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/ess-nps-savvy-fertilizer_209418_7.pdf).  For detailed instructions on MSU’s soil testing, visit the Department of Crop and Soil Science’s website at http://www.css.msu.edu/.

Start a greenbelt & get rid of “lawn to the pond”

Even a small naturalized no-mow strip, called a “greenbelt,” around the pond’s edge produces a trap for unwanted nutrients (such as from goose droppings) that contribute to algae bloom.  A strip of natural vegetation alongside the pond also enhances beneficial wildlife habitat such as our blue heron, the smaller heron, turtles, and bullfrogs.  Furthermore, it discourages geese.  Geese are attracted to mowed and fertilized lawns that extend to the shoreline.  They prefer to land on water and walk onto the lawn

(http://www.chenequa.wi.us/Highway/goose%20management.htm).  Not mowing the perimeter of the pond, if even just a few feet, will: Reduce erosion, trap nutrients and contaminants, provide aquatic and terrestrial habitat, and arguably improve the overall aesthetics of the pond.  Even if you cannot install a greenbelt of the ideal width, it is important to remember that a greenbelt of any width is better than no greenbelt at all (http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-water-wetlands-chap7.pdf).

Stay away from phosphorus fertilizers

If you fertilize your lawn, make sure that your lawn service uses phosphorus-free fertilizers.  It is estimated that just one pound of phosphorus in the water will produce 500 pounds of blue-green algae.  Much of the phosphorus (phosphate) you apply actually runs off the lawn before penetrating the soil. That means it gets into our pond contributing to the algae bloom and growth of other undesirable aquatic plants.  If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can tell that a fertilizer has no phosphorus by checking the second number on the fertilizer package formula. 15—0—10, for example, means zero phosphate. The first number is the nitrogen content, the middle number is the phosphorus content and the last number is the potassium content.  Make sure the middle number on the bag is 0 indicating it is phosphorus free.


Grass clippings from a mulching mower add organic matter to your lawn, helping to reduce runoff.  Clippings are 85 percent water. Short clippings quickly decompose, adding valuable nutrients to the soil. By mulching grass, fertilizers can be reduced by 30 percent or more! A common myth is that grass clippings cause thatch, a layer of living and dead roots and stems growing between the green layer and the soil. Troublesome thatch is actually caused by improper use of lawn chemicals, compacted soils, and excessive watering.

Take care of your septic system

Even perfectly maintained septic systems can pollute groundwater, especially if the soil is highly permeable or the water table is close to the surface which is the case after our very wet spring and summer.  Never put chemicals such as drain cleaner, turpentine, paint thinner, solvents, grease, gasoline, and large amounts of bleach down your sink because they kill the bacteria that break down solid wastes in the septic tank or clog the tank – and ultimately leach into groundwater and into our water supply.  If you need any of these products, dry off excess paint with a paper towel before rinsing; avoid caustic cleaning products; and drop off toxic chemicals at our local hazardous waste collection (see the attached flyer for household waste recycling dates). Additionally, water conservation practices such as installing low-flow toilets and shower heads can extend the life of a septic system (http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-water-wetlands-chap7.pdf).   There is no magic tablet to drop into your septic tank to prevent you from needing to get it pumped regularly.  Many experts advise a family of four with a 1,000 gallon septic tank to have the tank pumped after 3-5 years of full time use. 

A garbage disposal can double the amount of solids added to a septic tank (http://homebuying.about.com/cs/septicsystems/a/septic_care.htm), so consider household composting which can improve the health and lengthen the life of your septic system.  Compost is also a method of organically fertilizing your lawn and beds without chemicals.  For information on easy kitchen scrap composting that does not involve aerating or watering, or if you prefer information on the more time-consuming method of composting, contact Julie Taiber.  

Follow New Guidelines for Disposing of Drugs

Research on the effects of PPCPs (pharmaceuticals and personal care products), in our water has focused on hormone disruption in fish and increased human resistance to antibiotics due to an abundance of antidepressants, estrogen and antibiotics in the water.  Studies indicate that domestic septic systems do not destroy PPCPs, so never flush prescription drugs, expired drugs, or any pharmaceuticals down the drain – solid or liquid (http://www.ecocycle.org/askeco-cycle/20040123.cfm).  While the jury is still out on the proper way to dispose, you can minimize risk to the water table by dumping meds (ground up if in pill form) into cat litter, coffee grounds, glue or sawdust (rendering them unusable), placing in a ziplock bag, and disposing in the trash.  Additionally, Meridian Township offers periodic collection of PPCPs, the next one taking place Oct. 4, 2008 (see attached flyer).

Do not eat the bass in the pond

Catch and release!  If you hurt the bass population, the bluegill population will skyrocket and can wipe out other wildlife (frogs, turtles).  As the top predator in our pond, bass control the populations of other fish, which, if left unchecked, can contribute to excessive nutrients and algae in the pond. If you have any questions about the fish ecosystem in our neighborhood, contact Emma Eisenbeis.

Recycle your batteries, thermometers, and fluorescent lights

Don’t put these things into your trash – they contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which ultimately contaminate our water.  Recycle your batteries at the Meridian Township Municipal Center across from the Okemos farmers Market/Central Park ( 5151 Marsh Road, Okemos).  In the lobby of the building is a large receptacle for battery recycling – drop off anytime.  The other items are collected through the hazardous waste collections (see flyer below).

Thank you!
Emma Eisenbeis (517.347.7063)
Julie Taiber (julietaiber@gmail.com; 517.347.4226)