Help the environment, be alert and keep leaves on the dirt

Sydney Schumacher, Features Editor

Autumn, the weather is getting cooler, the trees are preparing for winter and their leaves are falling. It may not feel like fall with the snow and cold weather, but it’s important to remember that the trees are still losing their leaves.

Raking the lawn can be a boundless job, so before the rake gets put away this season, remember these simple rules to follow; Don’t rake leaves into the gutter, the street, or on any other type of pavement. Instead keep leaves on the lawn for collection. This insures that the phosphorus in the now decomposing foliage doesn’t end up in the lakes. 

Leaves on the street are compared to leaves in a tea bag that steeps in water. Like these tea leaves, the leaves kept on the street allow the phosphorus in the foliage to flow into the street drain. These street drains flow directly to the lakes and other bodies of water near the community. Rain, snow, and other forms of precipitation are big factors in causing phosphorus from the leaves to flow into these street drains. Putting leaves on the dirt insure that the extra phosphorus isn’t running into the storm drains and the lakes. The dirt stops the direct flow of phosphorus. 

So why does it matter that phosphorus flows into lakes? It’s the equivalent to fertilizing the lakes. This in turn, creates more algae in the lakes, this hurts other lake life and can sometimes be harmful to people’s health. 

If people were to ingest algae, they could get sick and if pets ingest algae, it can even kill them. Algae blooms eventually die, causing them to decay. This process of decaying creates “dead zones”, which are spots in which there is not enough oxygen for fish to survive. 

Another issue that phosphorus flowing down the street drains causes is contamination to the drinking water. Phosphorus can also flow into groundwater, which is most of the water supply. It is very hard and expensive to remove phosphorus from the water.

Everyone remembers a time when their family trip to Lake Mendota had to get cancelled due to blue green algae in the area. Making everyone unable to swim. It’s a bummer, there’s a simple solution that could not just help Lake Mendota but also other lakes in the area as well. Keeping the lakes and their ecosystem intact. 

Make sure to keep leaves on the grass. This action alone had an 80% reduction of phosphorus in the Madison area. Not to mention the added bonus of getting grass fertilized with the extra phosphorus emitted from the leaves. If residents follow these guidelines they can help out the lakes and environment.