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Close the Camp with Care
October 22, 2009
Another summer has flown by. It probably seems like just yesterday that you were opening your camp to prepare for those fun-filled days on the water. Now it’s time to get the camp ready for the fall and winter months ahead. During this yearly winterizing ritual, it’s important to consider possible effects to nearby lakes and streams as well as to the groundwater. After all, one of the main reasons camp is so great is the surrounding natural beauty! Some planning ahead and a little care can make all the difference for protecting land and water quality. First on the list is to prevent pipes from freezing. Unless the structure is heated year round, most owners drain the water system to ensure that it won’t freeze. In the past, many people used regular antifreeze to protect plumbing, but this antifreeze is toxic. It threatens ground and surface waters not to mention the danger to pets if they drink it. Adding antifreeze to plumbing fixtures is not necessary, provided all the fixtures are completely drained. If you can’t do this, use low toxicity antifreeze to minimize potential threats. Another concern is winter-time damage from rodents such as mice and squirrels. You don’t need to use pesticides or poisons. To prevent these unwanted guests, it’s a good idea to inspect the building inside and out to make sure there are no openings for rodents to enter and to remove all food that might lure them in. Outside chores include making sure that shorefront areas will not suffer ice or wave damage. That may involve stabilizing any eroding areas with vegetation or rock riprap. (Using riprap or patching a retaining wall, anything more than minor maintenance and repair near the shoreline, requires state and local permits; call the Department of Environmental Protection at 1-800-452-1942 for assistance.) This is also a good time to inspect parking and landscaped areas for signs of erosion and fix those, too. A stable shoreline and healthy shrubs, ground cover, and grass help keep eroding soil from harming water quality. So when you remove docks and boats from the water, store them in an area that will not kill vegetation. Regarding boat motors and other power equipment, winterize your engine(s) away from the water. When changing lubricating oils, collect the oil and bring it to a recycling facility for proper disposal. Wash boats away from the water, preferably at a commercial car wash. Many detergents and motor oils contain chemicals that can pollute the water. Following these simple rules when winterizing the camp will go far in protecting the natural resources we all enjoy. Working together, we can ensure that our natural resources remain healthy for future generations.
This column was submitted by William Laflamme, an Environmental Specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Bureau of Land and Water Quality. In Our Back Yard is an informational column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. E-mail your environmental questions to email@example.com or send them to In Our Back Yard, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
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