Noah Czech ’06 works to clean up local bodies of water
Noah Czech ’06 has been a stormwater compliance specialist with the city of St. Cloud since 2007. For the past few years, he’s been part of a team working to clean up Lake George. The St. Cloud landmark has been on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s list of impaired waters in the state since 2012.
Czech said the lake has a rich history, starting as a wetland area before it was dredged and reshaped into a lake in the 1920s. In 2002 the city completed a shoreline restoration project around the lake, renovations were made to complete the Lake George Municipal Complex in 2007, and in 2008 fishing piers were installed along with 28,000 square feet of brick walkways. Water quality studies were completed in 2010, and the lake was added to the state’s impaired water lists as a result of high phosphorous levels and poor water clarity.
Czech said in 2017 the city’s stormwater division looked at the lake and made it a priority improvement project.
The team started taking regular samples and worked on a watershed assessment plan. Czech said that essentially 100 years worth of pollutants had run off into the lake, leading to the high phosphorous levels — which can lead to algae and bring an unpleasant odor and look to bodies of water — and a lower-than-state-standard water clarity.
A stormwater pond — referred to as Little George — was constructed about 20 years ago to gather pollutants and protect Lake George. The pond was dredged in 2018 as part of the city’s plan to clean up Lake George, as Czech said the pond had too much nutrient buildup as well that was keeping it from doing its job. Iron filings were also used to treat the stormwater pond.
Czech and the stormwarter division used alum treatments, dredged the stormwater pond implemented consistent water monitoring to bring water issues under control by 2020 when their attention turned to drainage.
For Lake George, alum treatments started in 2018 as well, along with consistent water monitoring. Czech said in 2020 the water issues were more in control, but there was still too much drainage washing into the lake. An underground filtration system was put in place to collect and treat the 60 acres of runoff that had previously been running into the lake untreated.
Now, Lake George’s water quality exceeds state standards. The phosphorus levels have been reduced from 45 parts per billion down to 18 ppb, and the water clarity has improved from 5.8 feet up to 10 feet. The MPCA is expected to remove Lake George from the state impaired waters list some time this year.
Czech said the project has been a great way to educate the public, and that outreach along with taking care of storm drains and employing the use of streetsweepers will go a long way to help maintain the water quality of the lake.
He has always been interested in the outdoors and that is why he chose the Environmental Studies program at St. Cloud State as a student where he found his niche. While playing four years with the University’s baseball team, Czech enjoyed his coursework and eventually interned with the Sauk River Watershed District before moving into full-time work. Czech said his connections at St. Cloud State helped him find something he wanted to do locally, and the University is also where he met his wife, Laura.
Learning from faculty Dr. Chuck Rose and Dr. Mitch Bender helped him find a career that’s different every day, and Czech said he now comes back to his alma mater to speak in their classes.
“It helped me see that was what I wanted to do,” he said.