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Protecting our lakes from yard waste

It's hard to ignore that summer is over and the signs of fall are here. It has been a beautiful week though; the leaves are at their peak and have started to fall. It's that time of year again to rake our yards.

Leaves and yard waste that are left in the street or get into the lake can actually be harmful to our lakes and streams. Today I will talk about the proper way to dispose of leaves and yard waste to keep them out of the lakes.

First of all, leaves contain nutrients that fertilize lake plants and algae. When you rake your yard this fall, avoid raking the leaves straight into the lake or onto the street. When leaf piles sit in the street or shoreline, wind and rain carry them into the lake and storm sewers, adding nutrients. In addition, rain seeping through leaf piles makes a rich "nutrient tea" that flows into the storm drains even if the leaves themselves don't move. The best thing to do is to bag your leaves and take them to a compost site or dumping station or compost them yourself.

Please avoid dumping leaves and grass clippings into wetlands. Wetlands filter water, and when leaves and grass clippings are dumped into them, they get clogged and can't filter properly.

You can turn leaves into an asset by using them right in your yard. You can recycle your leaves for mulch, fertilizer, organic matter, soil improvement and weed defense. To mulch leaves, you'll need to shred them by taking a couple passes over them with the lawnmower. For more information on composting fall leaves visit:

Enjoy the fall colors and the lakes!

(Moriya Rufer is the Lakes Monitoring Program Coordinator for RMB Environmental Laboratories in Detroit Lakes, 218-846-1465,