Author Archives: Cindy Skrukrud

Celebrate Illinois Pollinator Week with Sierra Club!

Teams of Sierrans throughout Illinois have been as busy as bees working to improve habitat for all pollinator- bees, birds and butterflies. DuPage Monarch Project, led by the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club, asked Governor Rauner to name June 18-24 as Illinois Pollinator Week and he followed through! As we celebrate pollinators this week, take time to learn how you can help and how you can engage with other Sierra Club members in this important conservation work.

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Download English, Spanish and Polish versions of this poster at the end of this post.

Monarch butterflies and other important pollinators are in decline. The causes range from habitat loss, to pesticides, to climate change. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by as much as 90 percent over the last two decades.

Because Illinois is a critical migration flyway for monarch butterflies it has been designated as a high priority area for monarch conservation in strategies developed both by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. And, the monarch butterfly, Illinois’ state insect, was identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the most recent Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.

The Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign formed The Monarch Team–volunteers who works at the Group level to make the Prairie State better for monarchs, which in turn helps all of our valuable pollinators. The Team:

  • Advocates for critical Monarch habitat with new public lands like the Hackmatack and Kankakee National Wildlife Refuges, and continuing restoration at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other sites.
  • Works with partner organizations to develop policies to reduce, regulate and/or eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that are lethal to pollinators and the plants they depend on.
  • Collaborates on statewide policy to increase pollinator habitat on public and private land from farmland to urban areas to roadside rights of way.
  • Hosts and/or participates at educational events and festivals that promote planting native species, especially milkweeds, in yards, farms, rights of way, and other places available to support monarchs.

You can keep track of Illinois Sierra Club pollinator activities by checking out our calendar and by becoming a member of our Monarch Team’s Facebook group. Please feel free to add pollinator info and events to the group page. Mark your calendars for these Upcoming Events:

Help out Illinois Monarchs by Purchasing a License Plate Decal

Illinois residents can help out monarchs by signing up to purchase a license plate with a new monarch butterfly decal! All of the funds received will go to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to support roadside monarch habitat throughout our state and help to save this magnificent species. Instructions can be found in this earlier post. We need 2000 Illinoisans to sign up by September for the Secretary of State to create the decal.

History of Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign

  • Legislative initiatives
    • HB2568 — passed bill designating milkweed as Illinois State Wildflower
    • HB685 — passed bill to eliminate milkweed from being listed on municipal and county noxious weed lists.
  • Team activities:
    • All across the state Monarch Team volunteers have helped establish pollinator plantings, wayside gardens, and demonstration plots at county forest preserves, city parks and open spaces, national wildlife refuges, and a Studio Gang rooftop.
    • Worked with several park districts and a cities to sign resolutions to create and protect pollinator habitat.
    • Worked to get Mayor’s Monarch Pledges signed.
    • Volunteers have staffed tables at numerous Earth Day events and other festivals where they talked to the public and handed out information about monarchs and pollinators, handed out seed packets that they had assembled and labeled, setup coloring activity stations for kids, etc.
    • Groups have held educational presentations, while individual members have attended various pollinator workshops and webinars.

Pollinator Protection work underway throughout Illinois

River Prairie Group Spearheaded by the River Prairie Group, the DuPage Monarch Project (DMP) was formed in 2015 as a collaboration of four local environmental organizations for the purpose of advocating for monarch friendly communities.  Monarch friendly communities encourage landscaping for habitat, limiting the usage of insecticides and educating their residents about the challenges facing monarchs and pollinators. DMP’s outreach has primarily been through educational programs, tabling, and urging municipal entities to sign monarch resolutions. In 2018-

  • DMP hosted its third annual program titled Beyond Monarchs: Preserving Endangered Butterflies, Bees and Dragonflies.
  • DMP organized a pollinator themed art exhibit, The Art of Pollinators that ran for the month of May at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.  The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s annual native plant sale was held at the same location on May 11 and 12, offering plant sale browsers the opportunity to experience many of the pollinators that rely on native species.  The call for art was well received with nearly a 100 entries. It was a multi-media event with photographs, watercolors and several three-dimensional entries including an altered book, mixed media pieces and artful furniture. Sound artist John Nichols III contributed an insect soundscape of cricket chirps, buzzing bees, beetle clicks and whirring hummingbirds created from recordings collected over the past ten years.
  • DMP is offering a half-day symposium on October 17th on creating attractive, pollinator-friendly landscapes in a variety of settings, parks, municipal lands, homeowners association’s common grounds, corporate campuses and golf courses.

Chicago Group The group’s second annual pollinator seed packet distribution is underway.  We packaged 1,000 packets with native purple coneflower & black eyed susan seeds, and we will be handing them out at various farmers markets and Sierra Club sponsored events.  Packets are available at the Sierra Club’s Chicago office for people to pick up.

Shawnee Group The group’s pollinator project in Carbondale was put on hold after learning that the Splash Park where our project was located is heavily sprayed by Jackson County Mosquito Abatement. Because of the potential lethal consequences to all insects caused by mosquito abatement spraying the group voted not to continue attracting pollinators with more native plants until we could find a solution. The group is communicating with the Carbondale Sustainability Council in hopes they can influence  policies and change to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) recommended by the Xerces organization or find other pollinator insect friendly management techniques.

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Kathy Belletire, leader of the Shawnee Group’s Monarch Team, created this monarch-themed card that the group sold at their spring native plant sale.

The group participated in the “People and Pollinators” event sponsored by the Field Museum and held on the SIU campus on June 5th to learn to use mapping protocols to identify pollinator habitat potential in urban areas. Carbondale, Lincoln and Peoria are three cities in Illinois chosen as pilot project locations.  Volunteers will help the Giant City State Park Visitor Center’s pollinator garden by labeling their plants and enlarging their garden. They don’t spray there or at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge’s pollinator garden and prairie restoration project where the group also volunteers weekly.

Woods & Wetlands Group The group’s Monarch Campaign, co-chaired by Dale Duda and Cindy Blue, focuses on advocating for local community actions to preserve, protect and restore monarch habitat. The group continues to advocate for mayors to sign the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge and commit to a minimum three actions to help monarchs. Several mayors in the group’s territory have signed. See all the Illinois and national signatories online.

Woods & Wetlands is also working with libraries to adopt an education program, developed by the group, to reinforce knowledge about the monarch butterfly and the importance of milkweed to its life cycle.

Blackhawk Group Sierrans are part of the Hackmatack Monarch Coalition that is active in McHenry County. This coalition of over 20 member organizations is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on improving pollinator habitat and educating citizens on what they can do to help out pollinators. The coalition will host its 4th annual Monarch Family Fun Fair on August 12. The group has also planted pollinator plants supplied by the USFWS into existing roadside prairies and established new gardens at sites throughout the county, including at the McHenry County fairgrounds. In the fall, a second planting will be the first phase of establishment of a buffer along Silver Creek which runs through fairgrounds.

Download Illinois Pollinator Week posters: English Polish Spanish

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Farmers, Agriculture Suppliers, and Clean Water Advocates Mark Five Years of Partnership in Nutrient Research and Loss Reduction

Peoria, IL – Farmers and environmentalists celebrated the first five years of the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC) this week, a unique partnership aimed at supporting research and farmer education on fertilizer practices that improve water quality and economics. Since its inception in 2012, Illinois NREC has invested nearly $9.8 Million into nutrient related research efforts.

IMG-3175The celebration, held during the Illinois  Fertilizer and Chemical Association’s annual convention at the Peoria Civic Center, featured remarks from Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who sponsored the original legislation as a State Senator in 2012. The legislation enacted a $1 per ton fee on agricultural fertilizer sales to fund Illinois NREC and related programs of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“Clean water is essential for our health and our environment, and agriculture is Illinois’ number one industry,” said State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. “I applaud the collaboration between environmental and agricultural interests to create NREC and build consensus on strategies that protect our water supply and work for farmers.”

“Limited state resources, combined with serious water quality challenges, inspired us to reinvent the way we fund and deliver nutrient research in Illinois, and it took everyone working together with the legislature to accomplish this.” said Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association President Jean Payne.

“This partnership with farmers is critical in implementing the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and to clean up nutrient pollution in our lakes, streams and rivers,” said Dr. Cynthia Skrukrud, Clean Water Program Director for the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “NREC’s research identifies science-based strategies that will protect our water supply and work on the farm.”

Jeff Kirwan, Chairman of Illinois NREC, Illinois Farm Bureau Director and Mercer County farmer said, “NREC has proven to be a great opportunity for Illinois agriculture and our environmental partners to collaborate and learn from one another about nutrient stewardship – an issue of critical interest to both groups. NREC has provided the venue for us to work together, share successes and concerns and work together to move the needle towards increased nutrient efficiency. Everyone wins when we effectively manage nutrients – it adds to farmer bottom line and decreases the potential for unwanted nutrients making their way into our water systems.”

More information about the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council is available at illinoisnrec.org.

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Julie Armstrong, Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council Executive Director; Jean Payne, President, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association; Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs; Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin, Sierra Club Illinois Clean Water Program Director Dr. Cindy Skrukrud

 

 

 

Groups applaud release of Asian carp study, urge swift action to move from study to construction

Alliance for the Great Lakes   •   Natural Resources Defense Council
Prairie Rivers Network   •   Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter

Chicago, IL (August 7, 2017) – After much delay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today released the Brandon Road Lock & Dam Study. The study provides critical new information on the options for implementing additional Asian carp control measures to slow the movement of the invasive fish. Environmental and conservation groups released the following statement in response:

“The recent finding of an adult Asian carp nine miles from Lake Michigan underscores the urgent nature of this threat to Lake Michigan and all of the Great Lakes. The study, which was completed months ago, should have been released in February yet the Administration sat on it in reaction to pressure from industry groups and officials from the states of Illinois and Indiana. This delay wasted valuable time, putting the Great Lakes at unnecessary risk.

“We look forward to reviewing the findings in detail and to continuing the conversation on this critical issue with elected officials and concerned citizens during the public comment period. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must listen carefully to public input on the study and then move quickly from study to implementation of additional protection measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, a logical choke point in the system.

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Map showing locations of key features, or measures, of the tentatively selected plan at Brandon Road Lock and Dam. [Source: USACE]

“While possible control measures at Brandon Road Lock and Dam represent another step in the fight against the upstream movement of Asian carp, we cannot lose focus on the need for a two-way solution that also addresses invasive species moving from the Great Lakes into the Mississippi River basin.

“Thank you to the many Congressional Great Lakes champions who have advocated for the release of this study. Continued effort by elected officials will be needed to ensure the process is not delayed further and funding is appropriated for future construction needs.”

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Media Contacts:

Alliance for the Great Lakes: Jennifer Caddick, (312) 445-9760

Natural Resources Defense Council: Ivan Moreno, (312) 651-7932

Prairie Rivers Network: Robert Hirschfeld, (217) 344-2371 x8205

Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter: Cindy Skrukrud, (312) 251-1680 x110

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The Brandon Road Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement is available for review at the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) site.

Comments will be accepted through October 2, 2017. They can be submitted online or mailed or delivered to:

US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District
231 S. LaSalle St. Suite 1500
ATTN: GLMRIS – Brandon Road Comments
Chicago, IL 60604

The Corps will hold a series of public meetings in order to open a dialogue and obtain feedback. Scheduled meetings are:

  • September 11, 2017 from 1 to 5 p.m. at James R Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St., Chicago, Illinois
  • September 14 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Muskegon Community College, Collegiate Hall, 221 S. Quarterline Road, Muskegon, Michigan
  • September 18 from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Joliet Junior College, “U” Conference Center, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, Illinois

During the meetings, the Corps will provide a presentation on the tentatively selected plan that includes structural and nonstructural options and technologies for preventing upstream transfer of aquatic nuisance species, such as Asian carp, at Brandon Road Lock and Dam on the Des Plaines River. Oral and written comments will be accepted at the meetings. A webinar and Facebook Live format will be provided for the September 14 and 18 meetings. Meeting details will be posted at the GLMRIS Public Meetings page.

Environmental Groups Sue Illinois DNR over Wasteful Withdrawals of Lake Michigan Water

Last week, environmental protection groups filed a lawsuit against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to overturn a decision permitting additional billions of gallons of Lake Michigan water to be used to improve conditions in the Chicago River system during periods of poor water quality.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) applied in 2014 to withdraw additional Lake Michigan water. The Alliance for the Great Lakes, Illinois Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Openlands opposed the application, arguing that water conservation practices could be used to more efficiently manage the resource and keep more water in the lake while still protecting water quality in the Chicago River system. IDNR’s Director Wayne Rosenthal issued a decision in March allowing an additional 420 billion gallons of water to be diverted from Lake Michigan through the year 2030. The groups are now challenging that decision in an effort to reduce the amount of Lake Michigan water diverted.

In response, Illinois Sierra Club’s Clean Water Program Director Dr. Cindy Skrukrud released the following statement:

“IDNR issued their decision to allow a drastic increase to the amount of water diverted from Lake Michigan after failing to properly consider whether there are alternatives to maintain sanitary conditions in the Chicago River without using this wasteful amount of water. Everybody wants the Chicago River to be as clean as possible, but IDNR refused to even think about whether that could be done using common-sense solutions like green infrastructure. We are bringing suit in Cook County Circuit Court to assure that Great Lakes water is not wasted.

“Under the Great Lakes Compact, all Great Lakes states are required to evaluate ways to conserve their use of lake water. We recommended that the IDNR require studies on how improved treatment at wastewater plants could reduce pollution in Chicago waterways and reduce the need for Lake Michigan water to flush pollutants out of the system. We also called for studies on how green infrastructure practices could be deployed to reduce pollution from stormwater and combined sewer overflows. In fact, MWRD is already working to reduce pollution to Chicago waterways by improving treatment of its wastewater and implementing green infrastructure practices. Their current measures and expansion of these efforts should be factored into the determination of the need for Lake Michigan water withdrawals over the next decade. IDNR ignored these developments and our recommendations and has not required any study of methods to reduce use of the water. Their decision to allow use of Great Lakes water without even considering conservation practices flies in the face of the Compact and sets a bad precedent for future uses of Lake Michigan water.

“As the Trump Administration moves to cut the flow of vital funding to the Great Lakes, Governor Rauner’s IDNR is also loosening controls on diversions of water from Lake Michigan. Now, more than ever, we need states to do their part to stand up and protect our Great Lakes resource, not waste it.

“We hope the Court will reverse IDNR’s decision and require proper consideration of conservation practices to reduce the use of Lake Michigan water and protect this precious resource.”

Read the Complaint, Alliance for the Great Lakes et al. v. IDNR et al., 2017-CH-05445 (4.14.17)

Read more about the Great Lakes Compact here.

World Water Day 2017: Why Wastewater?

WWD-GENERIQ-CMJN_EN_2017_squareToday is World Water Day. Every March 22nd the United Nations uses this day to draw attention to the importance of freshwater and the need to sustainably manage our limited freshwater resources.

This year’s theme is Why Wastewater? Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. The UN has set a goal to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. The desired targets are universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water as well adequate and equitable sanitation for all. In addition, reusing wastewater as a resource can provide a sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials.

In countries like the United States, most of our wastewater is treated but we still have problems with the way we manage our water. Combined sewer overflows are commonplace, making our waterways unsafe for recreators when storms overwhelm sewer systems and raw sewage flows into our waterways. High levels of nutrients from wastewater discharges and agricultural runoff cause problems with algae over-growth in our waterways. Algae can create taste and odor problems for communities that pull their drinking water from rivers and lakes. An over-abundance of algae and aquatic plants in bodies of water can also consume the oxygen in the water that fish and other aquatic organisms need to survive. The largest example of this problem in the USA is the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that is the size of the state of Connecticut.

4_Card_WWD2017But the news is not all bad. Here in Illinois wastewater agencies are taking steps to improve the quality of the wastewater they discharge and to recover both the water and the resources it holds for reuse. For example, over 300,000 people drink water taken from the Fox River. By 2021, wastewater dischargers will reduce the summertime load of phosphorus going in the river by 75%. Less phosphorus means less algae in the water, reducing costs for treatment by drinking water suppliers.

The wastewater from McHenry County’s Valley Hi Nursing Home is used to irrigate farmland nearby, effectively returning the water to the ground from which it was drawn while the crops reap the benefits of the nutrients in the wastewater. McHenry County is 100% dependent on groundwater as its source of drinking water so aquifer recharge is vital to sustaining the county’s water supplies.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago is pulling nutrients out of its wastewater and turning it into a saleable fertilizer. The world’s largest nutrient recovery facility opened last June.

These examples of treating wastewater as a resource can be widely implemented. Of course, adapting our current water and wastewater systems to be more sustainable requires investment. Today the Value of Water Campaign released its Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure report. The report concludes that investing in water infrastructure will build a prosperous America while creating high quality jobs. That’s what our Flowing Economy: How Clean Water Infrastructure Investments Support Good Jobs in Chicago and in Illinois report also laid out last year.

3_Card_WWD2017Providing safe water for people worldwide depends on all of us to not waste the precious limited freshwater resources we have. Investing in those resources makes sense both to develop a sustainable water future and to create good jobs now. That is why we are so dismayed at President Trump’s budget proposal to eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the fund targeted to protect and restore the source of 20% of the world’s freshwater. You can help by letting your national representatives know you are counting on them to save the Great Lakes.

You can also help by joining our Clean Water Team to help hold our elected officials accountable for protecting clean water and conserving water resources. Sign up here! Together we can create a world where we waste water no more!

A Brighter Future for Chicago and Illinois Waterways

chicagor1-19-17Today Sierra Club and partners celebrate a milestone agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to address nutrient pollution impacts in Chicago’s rivers and downstream waters. With guidance from representatives of the environmental groups and the Illinois EPA, MWRD will develop a plan over the next seven years designed to address excessive plant and algae growth in Chicago Area waterways.

Too many nutrients in our waterways, especially phosphorus from wastewater discharges and combined sewer overflows, fuel the overgrowth of aquatic plants and algae that in turn suck needed oxygen out of the waters. Chicago’s waterways have seen a remarkable recovery in diversity of fish and other aquatic life as water quality has improved in recent years, but further recovery is hampered by excessive plant/algae growth.

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Algae and plants in the North Shore Channel

 As a backstop to the to-be-developed plan, MWRD has agreed to further cut phosphorus discharges from its three large Chicago wastewater treatment plants to 0.5 mg/L by 2030, if a more stringent limit is not developed by then. MWRD will also study what it will take to reduce its phosphorus discharges to the even lower levels (as low as 0.1 mg/L) that some plants elsewhere in the nation are already meeting.  MWRD has already demonstrated its ability to find innovative ways to pull phosphorus out of its wastewater and has created a marketable fertilizer product with the addition last year of the world’s largest nutrient recovery system at its Stickney plant.

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Algae in the Illinois River

Understanding the impacts of nutrients on algae and plant growth and oxygen levels in our waterways requires good data. To that end, MWRD has also agreed to sponsor a water quality monitoring station on the Des Plaines River in Joliet for the next four years. It will continuously measure levels of nitrates, phosphorus, oxygen, and chlorophyll along with other basic parameters. At the same time, Illinois EPA will monitor chlorophyll and oxygen levels and basic parameters downstream in the Marseilles, Starved Rock and Peoria pools on the Illinois River. If, as we expect, it is found that serious problems are being caused by phosphorus in the lower Des Plaines and Illinois rivers, a watershed committee will be formed to address those problems.

Just 10 years ago, Chicago’s rivers were largely treated as a watery sacrifice zone. We didn’t require these waterways to meet the levels of cleanliness we set for other waters in the state. MWRD did not disinfect its wastewater, despite the growing number of people out paddling and rowing. The effort to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) was uncertain, with completion of the Deep Tunnel project to capture and treat CSOs long-delayed and not mandated. Now MWRD disinfects its wastewater at all but the Stickney plant (we hope that is to come in the near future). They are busy working on green infrastructure
projects— such as the
Space to Grow program that converts paved schoolyards into beautiful playgrounds and gardens that also soak up rain and snow. They completed the Thornton reservoir in 2015 which can store 7.9 billion gallons. Both green and gray infrastructure projects are needed measures to reduce CSOs.

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Chapter Director Jack Darin addressing the MWRD Commissioners on partnering to implement the agreement.

It has never been more important that local governments and states show leadership in protecting our waters and investing in clean water infrastructure.  With this agreement, MWRD is setting an example of that leadership and we are excited to partner with them on this work in the years to come.

With progress being made on disinfection and CSOs, this agreement to address nutrient pollution is the third critical initiative needed for a brighter future for Chicago’s waterways. As we modernize our area’s water infrastructure, we also create good jobs, boosting our local economy along with the cleaner rivers that will also draw people and businesses. Today’s announcement sets the stage for Chicago’s rivers to truly become Chicago’s second great waterfront, where people will increasingly want to work and play.

See our joint statement with MWRD on this step forward for clean water.

See our press release on this agreement which settles two Clean Water Act legal cases we brought with our environmental partners to address MWRD’s phosphorus pollution.

Read NRDC’s blog if you’d like more detail on the history of the legal cases and the elements of this historic agreement.

Good News for Chicago Waterways!

Senator Durbin joins MWRD commissioners in cutting the ribbon on the new disinfection facilities at the Calumet wastewater plant.

Senator Durbin joins MWRD commissioners in cutting the ribbon on the new disinfection facilities at the Calumet wastewater plant.

Senator Durbin cut the ribbon last Friday at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant, as new disinfection equipment was dedicated at this Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) facility that treats wastewater for one million people living in South Chicago and surrounding suburbs. The new treatment will kill pathogenic bacteria in the wastewater that is discharged to the Calumet River. This improvement in water treatment is one result of years of effort to improve the standards for Chicago’s rivers in order to better protect people who recreate on and creatures who live in them.

In June, the longest rulemaking in the history of the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) ended with the board adopting greatly improved standards for numerous pollutants in the Chicago Area Waterways Systems (CAWS) and Lower Des Plaines River (LDPR).

In 2000, Illinois EPA began looking at upgrading the standards for the CAWS and LDPR for the first time since the Clean Water Act went into effect 43 years ago. Eight years ago the IEPA proposed new standards to the IPCB. Sierra Club Illinois and other advocates for cleaner rivers participated at numerous hearings and by filing written comments along with representatives from MWRD and industrial dischargers.

Recreational Use Map

Designated Recreational Uses in Chicago’s rivers. Source: MWRD-J. Wasik

The first thing decided in the rulemaking in 2011 was that more and more people are out recreating on the CAWS and LDPR and need to be protected from pathogens that survive the basis wastewater treatment process. Portions of the CAWS have been upgraded to protect people who swim, dive, and jump in the water; these reaches are designated for primary contact. Other portions have been upgraded to protect people who are wading, fishing, paddling and boating who may have incidental contact with river water. The result is that MWRD is now required to disinfect the wastewater it discharges from its Calumet plant on the southside of Chicago and the O’Brien plant on the northside. The Calumet plant began discharging disinfected wastewater last week, and the O’Brien plant will begin disinfecting its water later this year.

On June 18, 2015 the IPCB issued its final order to upgrade numerous other standards for the waterways. Lower levels of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc will be permitted to be discharged into the rivers. For the first time, limits have been placed on discharges on dangerous compounds such as benzene and toluene.

More stringent standards limiting thermal pollution have also been adopted for the waterways. The updated thermal standards are set to go into effect in 3 years, despite a last ditch effort by NRG Energy to delay their effective date.

These improved standards are designed to protect the fish and other aquatic life that have returned to Chicago’s waters as the treatment of wastewater and industrial discharges has improved under the Clean Water Act. The final step is approval by US EPA which is currently reviewing the standards.