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Making Civics Real Workshop 6: Civic Engagement  
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Workshop 6

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Teacher Perspectives: River clean-up project

Bill Mittlefehldt: That’s a team of two talented young men who love our beautiful Rum River. It’s a scenic and protected river and it’s quite beautiful in Anoka and north of Anoka. They had learned from some local media that there may be a soil contamination site less than a block [from] the Rum River. In Anoka County, we have very sandy soils left from four or more periods of glaciation. That sandy soil lets contamination move quickly through the soil. Pollution in the soil moves and may threaten your aquifers, which are the layers of water that you suck up in your city well or your home residential well. So it got the guys’ attention. They come from the Fresh Water State and they know that their community has wells in the aquifer and they enjoy swimming and fishing in that river. So they teamed up with a state entity to get the background on how big that [sandy area] is and it was bigger than they thought. They had tremendous support from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The site that generated [the pollution] has been an industrial site since the turn of the century, so there’s some [question] about who is responsible [for] that particular land. These guys decided this is an issue that they care enough about because I think they want to swim and fish in that river some more or have their kids do it. They’re trying to make a difference by bringing to light more information from the city and the state.

[The City Council is going] to be highly motivated on this issue because the possible contamination of the beautiful and scenic river could be the kiss of death for the community. It was kind of cool that the team that did the presenting actually educated the Council, because they didn’t know how much it was going to cost to dispose of it, how many acres it was, and how deep the contamination runs. The City Council knew they had a problem. In fact they worked with the kids. Once the kids took the ball, they ended up going down to MPCA [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency] to get more detail.


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