Lake bathers should use biodegradable soaps
I have an observation and concern I would like to share this week. We just finished another week of WE Fest. I would guess many observed the amount of public bathing that took place during this event. It happens every year. Popular places for WE Festers to soap and shampoo include our public beach area on Little Detroit, the south access on Big Detroit, Lake Sallie, and the public access on Lake Mellissa, to name a few.
Over the course of the three-day festival and the week of camping, we have thousands using our lakes for bathing. My concern is about the use of soaps and shampoos that are not biodegradable. I can't believe this is helping to "clean up our fisheries." As a community, we put energy and emphasis on the importance of protection of our lakes as a resource. We have annexed Big and Little Detroit and Long Lake. All of our lake associations are proactive with concerns over water quality. We have many government agencies like the DNR, the watershed districts, Pollution Control Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Wetland Management, and probably others I can't think of right now, that are on the job to educate and intervene when needed on behalf of our lakes and watershed.
I have a hard time believing that this does not have a harmful impact on our lake system.
Perhaps some announcements by the emcee to heighten visitor's awareness about the need to use biodegradable soaps when bathing in our lakes would help. Some posters on the WE Fest grounds and at the lakes to remind bathers of the importance of using biodegradable soaps would encourage change. Or something on the WE Fest website as a reminder for next year's festival crowd. Articles in our local paper and public service announcements on our local radio stations may make a difference. Maybe a brainstorming session for our local Chamber of Commerce or city council could produce some good problem solving to reduce the risk of pollution added by this unique event.
Retired Dr. Randy Winston, who volunteers for "Lets Go Fish", suggested selling biodegradable soaps and shampoos out at WE Fest as a fundraiser for that program. Ideas like this could help create a win-win situation when it comes to the public use off our lakes.
I visited with a number of different bathing groups when I was going on, or coming off the lakes. Most had not even thought about what they were doing and were not offended at having the issue questioned or brought up as a concern. I believe most people really want to do the right thing when it comes to our environment. We may just need to come together as a community to raise awareness and get our visitors to care about our area lakes like we do.
Then again, maybe this isn't a problem, and I reflect a small percentage of our local population that thinks maybe something should be done about this situation. I know next year, I will still do my part to encourage the use of biodegradable soaps and shampoos when I have the chance.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)