Summer’s Last Gasp – Removing boat docks and draining swimming pools

I hate to admit that summer is coming to a close, but…there. I’ve said it. Summer is almost over. Sure, there will be a few more glory days, a few more trips out on the boat, and few more hours spent at the beach, but there is no use in denying that the end is near. As you begin looking forward to autumn’s wooly sweaters and more time spent on the land than on the water, consider two seasonal chores that could make a difference in next summer’s water fun: removing your boat dock for the winter, and draining your swimming pool or hot tub.

If you hire a business to remove your boat, dock, or lift make sure they are on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) list of Permitted Service Providers. These providers have attended training on Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) laws and many have experience identifying and removing invasive species such as zebra mussels that frequently attach to docks, lifts and boats left in the water. In addition to being listed on the DNR website, permitted providers should have a sticker in the lower driver’s-side corner of their vehicle’s windshield.

So, what happens if you pull your boat or dock out for the winter and discover that it has zebra mussels or aquatic plants attached? First, if your lake is not currently listed as infested and you find zebra mussels, you should contact the DNR. If you are storing your boat and equipment on-site at your home or property, you do not need a permit, even if your equipment has zebra mussels or other prohibited invasive species attached. If you intend of transporting your boat or equipment off-site for the winter, however, you may not transport it with zebra mussels, faucet snails, or aquatic plants attached, even if you intend to put it in storage for the winter. If you suspect that there may be invasive plants or zebra mussels attached, you will need to fully clean and remove all invasives or obtain a permit from the DNR authorizing transport of prohibited invasive species and aquatic plants.

You've got a big pile of invasive aquatic plants you've removed from your dock - now what do you do?
You’ve got a big pile of invasive aquatic plants you’ve removed from your dock – now what do you do?

On that note, what should you do with aquatic plants and/or zebra mussels that you clean off of your dock? One option is to compost them in your yard; this does not require a permit. If you wish to dispose of them off-site, however, you will need a permit from the DNR. Find more information about DNR rules regarding permitted service providers, and transportation of aquatic invasives at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/aquatic.

The end of the summer is also the time when most people drain their pools and hot tubs for the year. This can be a simple and harmless process, as long as you take the proper steps to ensure that the water is de-chlorinated so that it does not kill fish or plants. Because water from swimming pools and hot tubs often contains high levels of chlorine, bromine, and copper and has low pH levels, it is illegal to discharge this water to a municipal storm sewer system without first de-chlorinating.

Happily, there is an easy solution. Simply stop adding chlorine and leave the water exposed to the air for three to five days until it becomes naturally de-chlorinated. You can also use de-chlorinating chemicals from a pool or spa supplier to remove the chlorine more quickly. Before dumping the water, use a test kit to ensure that it has been de-chlorinated to less than 0.1 mg/L of chlorine and has a pH range of 7-8., and consists only of water. Direct the water onto a vegetated surface so that as much as possible can soak into the ground (don’t flood your neighbor’s yard). Dispose of pool filters in your regular garbage and pour waste from pool filters and back wash systems into an indoor drain, not the storm sewer.