Housekeeping for healthy waters

Keeping it Clean by Madeline Seveland

Tying into last month’s message, "we all live on a waterfront," I’d like to take this water column and expand upon what you can do around the house to protect clean water and your health.

It’s become a bit of a trend, in the past couple decades, to use anti-bacterial everything. Many antibacterial substances, including soap, contain Triclosan. It’s even found in detergents, toothpaste, cutting boards, sponges and other products where bacteria are unwanted.

The Minnesota Dept. of Health recommends against using antibacterial products in most of these products because they are no more effective than non-antibacterial alternatives. In addition, anti-bacterial products contribute to the increase in anti-bacterial resistant bacteria, meaning we’ll have to use harsher chemicals to kill the bacteria when it is really necessary (ex. in hospitals).

Triclosan gets into drinking water (surface and groundwater) through wastewater and septic systems. Acute exposure of more than 200 ug/L in a day can affect development during pregnancy and chronic (two days to a lifetime) exposure of more than 50 ug/L can lead to decreases in thyroid and female hormone levels in blood. You can help by checking labels on your soap, cleaning and other household products and avoid using those with Triclosan.

Many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that when disposed of or washed down your drain do not get treated or removed from the water. Our water treatment facilities were not made to remove the hundreds of chemicals and compounds coming through them. They focus mainly on bacteria and removal of solids. So, use homemade cleaners! You can make your own non-toxic cleaners with simple ingredients you probably already have at home.

A 5 percent vinegar solution will kill 99 percent of bacteria and 82 percent of mold. Avoid cleaners that contain phosphorus and phosphates, these are the nutrients that lead to algae blooms in our lakes and rivers. For some popular home cleaning recipes visit here

Never dispose of old and unwanted medicines down toilets or sinks. There are a few messages circulating around that say it’s okay with some medications. However, that is wrong; it’s not okay. Instead, use the Carver County Collection Program at the Carver County Government Center Sherriff’s Office in Chaska. You can drop off old and unwanted medicines any day of the week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the protected drop box just inside the door. Or, watch for collection programs closer to you and sign up for the online newsletter at to be notified of collections in Carver County.

Many personal care products contain chemicals that cause harm to both our health and environment. Again, these chemicals don’t get filtered out in a wastewater treatment plant, so down the drain essentially means into our lakes, rivers, and groundwater. When choosing personal care products, read labels to learn about ingredients and carefully follow directions, or simply limit the amount you use. Some chemicals to watch out for or avoid include propyl paraben- found in shampoos, lotions, etc., 1,4-dioxane (listed as polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethyelene, polyoxynolethylene), sodium laureth sulfate and other chemicals ending in "eth" and nonoxynol, or octoxynol and other chemicals ending in "oxynol."

Lastly, recycle your plastics; do not throw them in the trash. The contaminant TCEP gets into waters primarily from plastics in landfills. The Carver County Environmental Center accepts plastics No. 1-7 now!