Category Archives: Clean Water

Posts relating to clean water work.

Sierra Club, Friends Seek to Join Attorney General in Trump Tower Lawsuit

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On Monday, August 20, 2018, Friends of the Chicago River and the Sierra Club filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court to intervene in a lawsuit against the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

The lawsuit stems from permit violations by the Trump Tower which uses 19.7 million gallons of Chicago River water a day for cooling. The Tower has ignored federal and state laws and regulations that require buildings, especially new ones, to minimize damage to fish and other aquatic life from water intake structures and to implement protective measures.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit August 13, 2018. Earlier on June 15, 2018, the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Chicago River had provided notice of their intent to sue the Chicago Trump International Hotel and Tower over its continuing violation of the Clean Water Act based on their investigation.

Regarding the request to intervene in the state lawsuit, Friends of the Chicago River Executive Director Margaret Frisbie issued this statement: “Friends of the Chicago River is eager to join forces with the Attorney General to assure the law is enforced and the river is protected. We have worked for decades to improve the health of the river and help transform it into a natural, recreational, and economic asset for the region. We want to protect those investments, the health of the river, and the wildlife that depends upon it.”

Jack Darin, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter Director, said: “Over and over we’ve heard Donald Trump say ‘we want crystal-clean water, and we want clean air — the cleanest ever’ but his actions say otherwise. For years, Trump’s tower on the Chicago River has been violating the Clean Water Act. It’s disappointing that the Rauner administration turned a blind eye to these violations for years, but we are now hopeful that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We will work with the Attorney General to ensure that justice is served and the Chicago River is fully protected.”

Friends of the Chicago River and Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club are represented by Attorney Albert Ettinger and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic.

Federal law mandates that Trump Tower do extensive studies of Chicago River fish populations and the impact of the building’s water intake system. Trump Tower failed to file any study results to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Attorney General Madigan said. Such cooling water intake structures can pull large amounts of fish into building cooling systems. Fish and other aquatic life can also get trapped against intake screens. The suit filed by Madigan alleges that Trump Tower dumps millions of gallons of heated water daily into the Chicago River without a valid permit.

Frisbie noted that her organization, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, has spent nearly $1 million on fish habitat projects in the last five years including along the Main Stem of the Chicago River. Since 2014 they’ve released 277,000 Illinois native channel catfish and 8,000 Illinois native northern pike into the Chicago River system at a cost of $484,000.

About Friends of the Chicago River

Friends of the Chicago River is the only organization solely dedicated to the Chicago River. Since 1979, Friends has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people, plants and animals; and by doing so, has laid the foundation for the river to be a beautiful, continuous, and easily accessible corridor of open space in the Chicago region. For more information, visit http://www.chicagoriver.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit http://www.illinois.sierraclub.org.

About the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School

The Abrams Environmental Law Clinic works to solve some of our region’s and country’s most pressing environmental problems. On behalf of clients, the Clinic challenges those who pollute illegally, fights for stricter permits, advocates for changes to regulations and laws, holds environmental agencies accountable, and develops innovative approaches for improving the environment.  For more information, visit https://www.law.uchicago.edu/clinic

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Celebrate World Water Day with us!

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Today is World Water Day.

World Water Day is a global day of awareness on the importance of water. Here in Illinois, we’re fortunate to have the world’s largest source of surface freshwater in the world right in our backyard. But pollution, invasive species and clean water policy rollbacks by the Trump Administration are threatening the health and longevity of this vital water source.

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We’re also seeing groundwater sources being depleted, intense rain events that can’t be handled by our failing water infrastructure and degraded waterways that desperately need restoration and protection from additional pollution.

We’ve seen where expensive manmade solutions to these problems fall short. That’s why we’re all about this year’s theme for World Water Day, ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

Our volunteer Chicago Water Team is celebrating this global day of awareness by accompanying a group of 7th and 8th grade science students on a tour of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) Terrence J. O’Brien Wastewater Treatment Plant, which uses nature-based solutions to treat Chicago’s wastewater such as UV disinfection and a revolving algal biofilm (RAB) system to remove nutrients.

We’re also participating in a ‘State of Our Water’ Symposium, organized by the Illinois Environmental Council at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The event will give the audience an overview of the most critical issues facing water in Illinois, including the progress being made implementing the state’s Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Our Clean Water Program Director, Cindy Skrukrud, will speak about the importance of getting involved in local watershed efforts and how citizens can help clean up urban waterways by employing nature-based solutions on their own properties. We have volunteers across the state working together to protect and restore their local waterways. If you’d like to get involved in our efforts, check out our website and then get in touch!  

In Alton, our Piasa Palisades Group is celebrating by hosting a 5-mile litter clean-up along the Great River Road. Volunteers will kick off their clean-up at three different starting points with morning and afternoon shifts, and are bound to make a big impact on the state of the Mississippi River shoreline in their community! 

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While we love celebrating clean water on this special day and are proud to stand with others across the globe bringing awareness to the importance of water, we also want to continue the conversation — and more importantly, the ACTION — for clean water every day. We’ll continue to advocate for common sense policies and investment in infrastructure to protect our water at the local, state and federal level. We’ll stand up against dangerous attempts by the Trump Administration to rollback protections, cut budgets and eliminate programs that are needed to keep our water clean and ecosystems healthy. We hope you’ll stand with us and join us in this fight.

 

 

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

 

 

 

Debunking Myths and Taking Action to Stop Asian Carp

 

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Invasive Asian carp are an urgent threat to the health of the Great Lakes, and the people and economies that depend on the lakes and their resources. The Sierra Club and its partners have long advocated for a comprehensive solution to the risk of these fish invading the Great Lakes, along with the other aquatic invasive species that threaten both the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin.

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked by Congress with finding a solution to invasives moving into both basins, their current efforts are heavily focused on Asian carp and their upstream movement. The Chicago Area Waterways system provides an artificial connection between the two basins, created over 100 years ago when the Chicago River was reversed to send wastewater downstream to the Illinois and then Mississippi River.  We must address the consequences of this artificial connection to protect our vital freshwater resources.

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Map showing location of locks, Asian carp populations and the current electric barriers within the Illinois river system. 

Earlier this year, the Army Corps completed a draft report detailing their Tentatively Selected Plan to install controls at the Brandon Road Lock in Joliet, Illinois in an effort to prevent Asian carp from moving upstream towards Lake Michigan. The new deadline for submitting comments on this report is December 8, and a fourth public meeting to present the report and gather input will be held on December 5 in New Orleans.

Let’s take a look at what’s included in the Tentatively Selected Plan.

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None of these proposed control methods will stop traffic from moving through the lock. Electric barriers are used elsewhere in the river system, and the other technologies can be deployed without preventing current operations. While this combination of control methods cannot provide 100% confidence that Asian carp will not move through the lock, they will reduce the risk of transfer and add an additional stopgap between the current population and Lake Michigan.

In a recent news article, the president of Illinois Marine Towing Inc. claimed: “The new plan for structural barriers would slow shipping from 11,000 barge passages per year at Brandon down to 7,000.” According to the Army Corps, there is no factual basis for this claim in their analysis, and these figures don’t align with actual lockages at Brandon Road. Obviously, the impacts to transportation would be highest during construction of the project, when the shippers are expected to temporarily use another method of transportation during construction (estimated conservatively at 40 days) and then return to their normal operations after construction is complete. But outside this period, the reduction in lockages is not predicted at this mythical scale.

Another “alternative fact” we’ve seen recently came from the State of Illinois’ Lieutenant Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti who was interviewed for an article in Ottawa’s The Times: “Last summer a live Asian carp was found in the Calumet River, less than 10 miles from Lake Michigan. But Sanguinetti said an autopsy and other testing shows it did not arrive via the Illinois River.” According to Dr. Greg Whitledge at Southern Illinois University’s Department of Zoology, who performed the autopsy on the fish caught over the summer, it is incorrect to conclude that the fish definitely did not arrive at its collection location via the Illinois River.  The chemistry of the fish’s earstones (otoliths) are consistent with prior residency in the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers.  Whether it arrived in the Calumet River on its own or was moved there (i.e., transported around the barriers and released) cannot be determined.

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A live Silver carp was found in June 2017 beyond the current electric barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), just nine miles from Lake Michigan. 

So, it is possible that this Asian carp did arrive via the Illinois River. And it is possible that other Asian carp will move through the Illinois River system towards Lake Michigan without additional protections to stop their movement. While we greatly appreciate the work that staff of state agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are doing to remove large amounts of Asian carp from the river system, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to fish these voracious invasive species to extinction.  

It’s far past time to get serious about a permanent solution to the problem of Asian carp and all aquatic invasive species threatening our waterways. The State of Illinois should be working proactively with other states and agencies to identify and implement such a solution, rather than dragging their heels and placing declining waterway use by barges over the future of our most important natural resource. Both can be protected if we work together effectively.  

In the face of these myths and inaccuracies, we must bring science back into the conversation and work together cooperatively to ensure that an effective, holistic solution is implemented to protect the Great Lakes, a national treasure, economic driver and drinking water source for over 40 million people.

Please submit your comments before Dec. 8th to tell the Army Corps to move forward expeditiously with their plan to install controls against invasive Asian carp. For help submitting a comment, use our Action Alert.  

 

Illinois Fracking Permit Withdrawn Statement of Jack Darin, Director, Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter

Woolsey Operating Company, LLC has withdrawn its fracking permit and associated application for a wastewater injection well in White County Illinois. The permit was the first horizontal fracking permit to be issued since the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act was enacted in 2013, and recently approved over the objections of area residents and thousands of Illinoisans. Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter, had this reaction:

“This decision comes as a relief to residents in White County and across the state who objected to the permit granted by the Rauner Administration. However, the relief is only temporary until Illinois tells the oil and gas industry that dangerous fracking is not welcome here. We must not let the mounting incidences of water contamination, air pollution and increased seismic activity associated with horizontal fracking to happen here in Illinois. Illinois should prioritize clean energy and the thousands of jobs it promises, rather than sacrificing our water to bet on the ups and downs of fossil markets.”

Time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers in Will County until a plan is in place that protects our communities

Residents of Will County strongly urge a moratorium be placed on the annexation and zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers in Village and City jurisdictions of Will County until Will County completes a comprehensive land use and transportation plan.  Building on the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan’s emphasis on protecting quality of life and improving existing roads, we now need a comprehensive land use and transportation plan that protects our communities from industrial developments that negatively impact our quality of life, natural resources, and air and water quality.

trans-hubs-usWhile the county can lead the land use plan, it is up to municipal officials to approve or deny the zoning for new warehouses and distribution centers. The impacts of new warehouses do not stop at municipal boundaries.  Traffic from warehouses built in Elwood and Channahon affects roads in Joliet and New Lenox.  We need our municipal leaders to work together to protect the quality of life of all citizens.

It’s time for a time-out on massive warehouse and distribution centers until we have a plan in place that protects our communities.  Citizens of Will County want to preserve quality of life so that industry complements rather than overruns the region’s rich agricultural heritage. Citizens want diverse, sustainable economic growth rather than over-reliance on one sector.  Citizens want to ensure their families continue to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and that new industrial facilities don’t pollute and decimate the beautiful natural areas that are important to the community’s identity and economy.  

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That plan is critical to the safety, health and quality of life of my community in that it will:

  • Promote safe and efficient movement of freight through Will County while protecting others on our road system;
  • Protect the prime farmland and open spaces that are growing economic assets to our region, and home to rare wildlife and recreation opportunities;
  • Place the highest value on environmental justice and quality of life for those of us who live, work and recreate near the freight traffic, warehouses and distribution centers.

Five important reasons to create a comprehensive land use and transportation plan:

  1. The transportation infrastructure cannot handle current traffic levels.  I-80 through Joliet is frequently a bottleneck, causing some drivers to divert onto local roads.  The I-80/53 interchange is crumbling and cannot handle traffic levels.  Since our roads are at capacity, it would be illogical to add more warehouse traffic.  traffic-conjestion
  2. Many warehouses sit vacant. It does not make sense to pave over some of the richest farmland in the world when there are empty warehouses and land already zoned for warehouses available.

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    Prime farmland is a prime asset of Will County–it should be protected, not paved over.

  3.  Air quality must be protected. While intermodal is often touted for its environmental benefits in terms of placing containers on rail instead of trucks, the hubs–like Will County– experience massive amounts of diesel exhaust due to the convergence of semis in one area to pick up and drop off shipping containers.  Elected officials need to protect our air quality and health by examining what measures Will County can take to move toward zero-emissions, electric vehicles.  
  4. Sensitive natural areas must be protected. Will County is home to natural areas that provide habitat to rare grassland birds and freshwater mussels. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Kankakee River cannot be replaced and must be protected from the diesel fumes, runoff, and the sound and light pollution that accompanies warehouse developments. 

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    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County stretches across 20,000 acres. Photo: The Wetlands Initiative

  5. We must take a hard look at whether the corporations locating in Will County are paying warehouse workers a living wage. We must also take a hard look at what percentage of goods moving through Will County are made in the United States.  If taxpayers are asked to help pay for the infrastructure to support these warehouses, then taxpayers have a right to question whether this system of globalism makes sense for people and the planet. will-county-openspace

Your car can be more than a pumpkin holder.

Spooky carIt may only be October, but now is a great time to donate your vehicle. When you donate a vehicle that you no longer need or use, your generous donation will not only support Illinois Sierra Club, but you can also benefit from the donation too! When you donate your car, truck or boat to Illinois Sierra Club before January 1st, 2018, you could qualify for a 2017 tax deduction!

The donation process is easy.

CARS will pick up most cars, trucks, trailers, boats, RVs, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, and heavy equipment, making it easy for you to support the Sierra Club’s mission to move toward a greener future.

Don’t let your car just be a pumpkin holder this Fall. Visit us online to give your vehicle a new purpose today!