Do the right thing
Every spring as the snow melts away and the grass begins to green, we all start picking up the unsightly remnants of winter and look forward to the warmer, more enjoyable seasons of Minnesota. Some years there is more remnants than other years.
In the Fall of 2020, 2.04 tons of used vehicle tires were thrown over the side of a bridge into Highwater Creek, a large tributary to the Cottonwood River. This incident occurred about one mile southeast of Lamberton between sections 25 and 36 of Lamberton Township.
Upon discovery, the illegal dumping was reported to the Redwood County Sheriff’s Office. Approximately 120 tires were retrieved from the water and streambanks by local residents, Kipper Kremin and his sons, Sonny and Fletcher. Matt Arkell joined the effort with a loader and piled the tires upon two hayracks. From there, it became a matter of properly disposing of the tires and who would pay that cost.
Lamberton Township sought assistance from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as Highwater Creek is a Public Water. With no designated funding for cleanup from DNR, Redwood County and the Redwood/Renville Regional Solid Waste Authority were contacted. Ultimately, the stream of emails came to the Redwood-Cottonwood Rivers Control Area (RCRCA). RCRCA was able to provide the funding to dispose of the tires at the Cottonwood County Sanitary Landfill—that graciously only charged their cost of disposal. Bill Pfarr and Lamberton Township provided the transport of the tires to the facility.
Tires contain chemicals and heavy metals that leach into the environment as the tires break down. Some of these chemicals are carcinogenic and mutagenic (cause cancer and gene mutations). Leaching affects the soil around the tire, and when the tire is removed, the soil retains the toxins.
Groundwater is another major concern. If toxins get into water, the water can transport toxins to other locations potentially harming animals that come in contact with it. Aquatic life such as algae, zooplankton, snails and fish are also put at risk.
The toxic nature of rubber is due to its mineral content containing aluminum, copper, cadmium, iron, chromium, magnesium, sulfur, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. Acidic soils and aquatic environments are particularly sensitive to zinc toxicity as heavy metals and other positively charged elements are more available to plants in these soils.
Aside from the chemical impacts to the environment, tires are an eyesore. If left in the creek and the streambanks, more nuisance is caused from the tire becoming a mosquito breeding ground and a potential home for unwanted wildlife.
Highwater Creek is one of 26 subwatersheds that empty into the Cottonwood River. In 2017 and 2018, the Cottonwood River underwent Intensive Watershed Monitoring whereby the river itself, and its contributing streams, were sampled and analyzed for a variety of pollutants. This information was used to calculate the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or the allowable amount of a pollutant that a stream can handle without being identified as impaired.
TMDLs are used in the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) document that identifies the most impaired subwatersheds, details the types of conservation practices that can improve the conditions, and estimates the amount of restoration needed for impaired watersheds. Likewise, if the subwatershed is not impaired, the document identifies protection strategies to prevent it from becoming impaired. The WRAPS document is in draft form and should be completed later this summer. More information is available at www.rcrca.com.
And while you are outside, planting in the field, planting in the garden, or just going for a walk, do the right thing and keep America beautiful by picking up the litter. RCRCA would like to acknowledge the efforts of Kipper Kremin and his sons, Matt Arkell, Bill Pfarr and Lamberton Township, and the Cottonwood County Sanitary Landfill for doing the right thing!
If anyone has information regarding this incident or the offender, it is asked that they please contact the Redwood County Sheriff’s office.