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Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

The Citizens’ Bulletin

Volume 10, Issue 2 –Spring 2014

In This Issue…

  • April is Earth Month
  • Air Quality Awareness Week: April 28-May 2
  • Recycle Your Mercury-switch Thermostat
  • Household Hazardous Waste Collections
  • Green Gardening- Create Compost!
  • National Stormwater Calculator
  • Citizen Scientist
  • 10 Ways to Spot a Recycler
  • In the Community
  • Green Tips
  • FAQs

Welcome To The Citizens’ Bulletin!

Welcome to the Illinois EPA’s Citizens’ Bulletin. We are pleased to present our electronic environmental newsletter created specifically for the citizens of Illinois. The Citizens’ Bulletin is a component of our ongoing effort to carry out Governor Pat Quinn’s commitment to making state government more responsive to citizens by using technology such as the Internet.

We created this e-newsletter to provide you with useful information, such as Green Tips, a regular feature offering tips and ideas you can use to prevent pollution and protect the environment. Events, another regular feature, will include public hearings, workshops, conferences and events that offer opportunities for you to get involved. A schedule of events will also be available on our website and will be regularly updated. Each issue will include articles about Illinois EPA programs and activities to keep you informed.

We hope that this newsletter provides you with comprehensive news, events, and helpful hints. We welcome your feedback and your ideas of how we may better serve you.

April is Earth Month!

The first Earth Day was observed across the country on April 22, 1970. Earth Day was the product of grassroots action to increase environmental awareness, but it also focused the nation's regulatory agenda on pressing environmental issues. Citizens should be aware of environmental issues more than one day a year though, and as a result, the U.S. EPA has declared April as Earth Month! Head to U.S. EPA's web site to find daily environmental tips and check out the Pick Five program. Six broad categories list actions that can help reduce waste, energy consumption, water usage, and spread the word about environmental advocacy. For a timeline of Environmental Progress, visit U.S. EPA's Earth Day web page.

Air Quality Awareness Week: Monday, April 28 - Friday, May 2

The U.S. EPA has established Air Quality Awareness Week to educate the public about the effects of air quality on citizen's health. The Illinois EPA will also celebrate Air Quality Awareness Week in Illinois. Breathing polluted air puts all people at risk, especially children with asthma, the elderly, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. Log on to the Partners for Clean Air website at to learn more about ozone and particulate matter, the health effects of air pollution, and ways to reduce emissions and clean the air. Tips for planning a successful Air Quality Awareness Week event can be found at

Spring is here! Head outside for some fresh air.

The temperature outside is rising and flowers are beginning to bloom. As you head outside to enjoy the fresh air, keep these facts and tips in mind.

  • Walk, bike, or carpool whenever possible. By parking your vehicle for one day, the average driver would keep just over ¼ pound of pollution out of the air. While that may not seem like much, if every registered vehicle in the state was parked for one day, emissions would decrease by 2.6 million pounds or 1,300 tons that day.
  • When a car is at idle, emissions of carbon monoxide are at their highest. As speed increases, it drops dramatically, but increases again with speeds over 50 mph. (Source: U.S. EPA) Vehicle emissions can be reduced by simply keeping the engine properly tuned and tires properly inflated. This could save drivers up to $119 per year (based on 10,000 miles at $3.75/gallon.)
  • Each year, residential lawnmowers emit tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, equivalent to tens of thousands of vehicles. Replace your gas powered lawnmower with a new electric, rechargeable or non-motorized mower. For every 1,000 lawnmowers replaced, the emissions reduction will be equivalent to removing approximately 230 vehicles from the road in metropolitan areas.

Recycle Your Mercury-switch Thermostat

If you are remodeling your home or upgrading your heating and cooling system, you may also be updating your thermostat that is used to regulate the heating and cooling system. Older thermostats may contain a small amount of mercury. The mercury will be contained in a sealed glass bulb that is part of a tilt switch component of the thermostat. Do not open the thermostat to remove the glass bulb.

The thermostat manufacturers have created a statewide program for recycling intact mercury-switch thermostats when they are taken out of service. Ask your contractor or service technician to carefully remove and recycle the mercury thermostat. Participation in the recycling program is easy. Your contractor can take the mercury thermostat to the wholesale HVAC equipment distributor where they buy thermostats. Do-it-yourselfers can take the mercury thermostat to certain retail locations, local governments and wholesale distributors.

Visit the Thermostat Recycling web page and enter your zip code to find the collection location nearest to you.

Household Hazardous Waste Collections

Through household hazardous waste collections, citizens are given the opportunity to safely dispose of unused or leftover household products commonly found in homes, basements and garages that may contain hazardous ingredients. The collections are staffed by individuals trained to properly handle hazardous materials in an environmentally sound manner, diverting the items from local area landfills.

Residents are encouraged to bring oil-based paints, thinners, chemical cleaners, unwanted pharmaceuticals, mercury and mercury-containing items, antifreeze, motor oil, gasoline, kerosene, weed killers, insecticides, pesticides, adhesives, hobby chemicals, household batteries and similar products. Fluorescent and other high-intensity discharge lamps may also be brought to the collections. The public is encouraged to find alternative uses for latex paint since it is not considered hazardous.

Items not accepted include explosives, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, medical waste, sharps, controlled substances, agricultural chemicals and all business wastes. Propane tanks and lead acid auto batteries cannot be accepted at most of the events, but should be taken to local recyclers.

The one-day collections are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays for:

  • April 5, 2014 Shawneetown, Town Square, Posey Avenue, Gallatin County
  • May 3, 2014 Palos Hills, Moraine Valley Community College, 900 W. College Parkway, Cook County
  • May 17, 2014 Taylorville, County Fairgrounds, Christian County
  • May 17, 2014 Countryside, 5550 East Ave. (adjacent to City Hall), Cook County
  • May 31, 2014 Wood River, Wood River Refinery, IL Rt. 111, Madison County
  • June 7, 2014 Lewistown, Farm Bureau, 15411 N. IL 100 Highway, Fulton County
  • June 21, 2014 DeKalb, Northern Illinois University, Lot 25, Rt. 38 & W. Stadium Drive, DeKalb County
  • June 28, 2014 Blue Island, Eisenhower High School, 12700 Sacramento Avenue, Cook County

Illinois EPA also continues to support the following long-term collection facilities:

  • Naperville, Fire Station #4, 1971 Brookdale Road, DuPage County Hours: Saturdays 9:00 AM — 2:00 PM, Sundays 9:00 AM — 2:00 PM, Phone: 630-420-6095
  • Rockford, Rock River Reclamation District, 3333 Kishwaukee, Winnebago County Hours: Saturdays 8:00 AM — 4:00 PM, Sundays Noon — 4:00 PM, Phone: 815-987-5570
  • Chicago, Goose Island, 1150 North Branch, Cook County Hours: Tuesdays 7:00 AM — Noon, Thursdays 2:00 AM — 7:00 PM, and First Saturday of every month 8:00 AM — 3:00 PM, Phone: 312-744-7672
  • Gurnee, 1311 N. Estes Street, Lake County *Other collections are held through the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO). Contact SWALCO by phone: 847-336-9340 or website: ( for more information.

For more information on household hazardous waste collections, visit the Illinois EPA's web site.

Green Gardening- Create Compost!

Start your own compost heap. Recycling your unwanted outdoor trimmings, weeds, and organic scraps from the kitchen is easy and useful!

Where do I start? A location in your yard that is exposed to the elements such as rain, direct sunlight, and shade with accessible drainage is a perfect situation, but there are other options. Commercial containers for indoor or outdoor use are available. A carbon-nitrogen balanced ratio is important when beginning your pile. Carbon rich materials are the 'brown' materials. They include leaf litter, straw, shredded newspaper, dead plants or flowers. Nitrogen products are the 'green' materials. They consist of fruit and vegetable leftovers, trimmings from trees, shrubs, and plants, and manure from barnyard animals (NOT carnivores like cat or dog feces). Now you can layer your compost pile like a sundae, starting on the bottom with 'brown', then a layer of 'green'. Next is a layer of soil, finishing with a layer of 'brown'.

For a more precise run down on the steps for composting, you can visit the University of Illinois website at

Compost is a wonderful soil for planting in pots, a garden, or to be used as mulch. Loose soil is more absorbent of water absorbing water droplets like a sponge; this actually decreases soil erosion. Tightly packed soil causes the runoff of water and with it washes away essential nutrients and organic materials. The LOOSE soil also makes it easier for fresh young roots to push through the earth. The compost helps maintain the soil pH level at optimal levels for absorbing nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. At the end of the day, you are reusing your scraps while reducing garbage, all by means of recycling.

Compost verses pests, compost wins. Compost is effective at keeping pesky pests at bay along with fungal and plant diseases with natural deterrents instead of harmful pesticides.

How do I know when it's ready? When ready, your pile should be dark brown in color and emit an earthy dirt smell. When insects and worms are using your pile it is good notification that your compost is ready. Wait an additional 1-3 weeks to ensure that decomposition is complete, to ensure you do not harm your plants and provide them with maximum nitrogen.

You can always chameleon your compost. There are many options to hide your compost like trellises, fencing, tall flowers, behind a shed or in the corner of any yard!

National Stormwater Calculator

U.S. EPA's National Stormwater Calculator (SWC) is a desktop application that estimates the annual amount of rainwater and frequency of runoff from a specific site anywhere in the United States. Estimates are based on local soil conditions, land cover, and historic rainfall records and slope. The updated version now includes changes in seasonal precipitation levels, the effects of more frequent high-intensity storms, and changes in evaporation rates. It is designed to be used by anyone interested in reducing runoff from a property, including site developers, landscape architects, urban planners, and homeowners.

Users can enter any U.S. location and select different scenarios to learn how specific green infrastructure changes, including inexpensive changes such as rain barrels and rain gardens, can reduce stormwater runoff. This information shows users how adding green infrastructure, which mimics natural processes, can be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce stormwater runoff. The low impact development (LID) controls that the user can choose are the following seven green infrastructure practices:

  1. Disconnection
  2. Rain harvesting
  3. Rain gardens
  4. Green roofs
  5. Street planters
  6. Infiltration basins
  7. Porous pavement

Every year billions of gallons of raw sewage, trash, household chemicals, and urban runoff flow into our streams, rivers and lakes. Polluted stormwater runoff can adversely affect plants, animals, and people. It also negatively impacts our economy - from closed beaches to decreased fishing in polluted areas.

Green infrastructure can reduce the damage caused by climate change and nonpoint source pollution by improving water quality in streams and rivers, protecting groundwater sources, and enhancing recreational activities. It helps by promoting the natural movement of water, instead of allowing it to wash into streets and down storm drains. Green infrastructure also has the added benefit of beautifying neighborhoods and increasing property values.

Clean water is essential to keeping our families and the environment healthy. The Calculator is an innovative and efficient way to promote healthy waters and support sustainable communities.

Citizen Scientists

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revamped its Citizen Science website to provide new resources and success stories to assist the public in conducting scientific research and collecting data to better understand their local environment and address issues of concern.

Growing up, Chad Pregracke was sick of seeing trash in the Mississippi River. Pregracke grew up in East Moline, Illinois, where the Mississippi River was in his backyard. As a teenager, he worked as a commercial shell diver and began to notice the heaps of debris in the fabled waterway -- one that supplies drinking water to 18 million people in more than 50 U.S. cities.

The updated website now offers detailed information about air, water and soil monitoring, including recommended types of equipment and resources for conducting investigations. It also includes case studies and videotapes that showcase successful citizen science projects. Although the web site focuses on U.S. EPA Region 2 (Illinois falls within U.S. EPA Region 5), it includes resources that are useful to citizen scientists everywhere. By providing the tools to increase the quality of the data collected and assist in its interpretation, the U.S. EPA is helping the public achieve greater levels of environmental protection.

Additional resources can be found on U.S. EPA's web site.

Visit the following web sites for more information on citizen scientist project searches and opportunities in Illinois:

  • Project search
  • Bee Spotter
  • Illinois Butterfly monitoring Network
  • RiverWatch is a statewide partnership of organizations and individuals working to protect Illinois' streams. Certified volunteers, referred to as Citizen Scientists, collect reliable water quality data that are used to determine how the conditions of a stream are changing over time. Data on streams dating back to 1995 are maintained by the National Great Rivers Research & Education Center in an online, user-friendly database. Following an eight-hour training workshop, Citizen Scientists adopt a stream site and conduct an annual habitat and biological survey of their site between May 1 and June 30. The program is available to all Illinois residents ages 18 and older. No prior experience is required. Training events are provided March to April and sampling equipment is available at numerous facilities around the state at no cost to the volunteer.

Top 10 Ways to Spot a Recycler

10. When a recycler says they're a diver, they don't mean swimming. They mean dumpster.

9. At parties, recyclers round up the empty cans and bottles.

8. No recycling at the party? Recyclers take items home with them to their bins.

7. Their garbage can sits at the curb practically empty while their recycling bins are overflowing.

6. Recyclers believe in full circle. They buy carpet, furniture and clothing made from recycled plastic.

5. At the office water cooler, recyclers swap tales of the oddest things they've recycled.

4. Recyclers don't do demolition. They de-construct and donate the materials they don't need.

3. Before they buy a product, they think about if they can recycle the packaging.

2. Recyclers have boundless creativity. They can reuse egg cartons faster than chickens can fill them.

1. Recyclers act as if every purchase or waste sorting choice they make matters to the well- being of the planet. And, they're right

In the Community

Illinois fifth and sixth grade students have been selected for their creative skills used to express environmental awareness, as part of the Agency's 27th annual Poster, Poetry and Prose Contest. This year's theme focused on environmental justice and why the economy, a healthy environment and the balance of the two are important, and how it relates to the local community with Environmental Justice for All! What Are the Environmental Issues in Your Community? This year's topic is new in an effort to keep up with emerging, hot topic issues such as environmental justice.

Poetry/Prose Top Award Winners

Jessica Bek, Washington School in Glenview

Laura Dudzik, Washington School in Glenview

Emily Hwang, Old St. Mary's School in Chicago

Rishitha Namburi, Hoover Math & Science Academy in Schaumburg

Neha Nath, Hoover Math & Science Academy in Schaumburg

Zoe Marika Sarris, Hellenic American Academy in Deerfield

Posters Top Award Winners

Linnea Cheng, Hoover Math & Science Academy in Schaumburg

Emma Blair Davenport, Hoover Math & Science Academy in Schaumburg

Michelle John, Washington School in Glenview

Charlie Miller, Washington School in Glenview

Jyoti Sundaram, Countryside School in Champaign

David Tapper, Roycemore School in Evanston

Green Tips for the Home and Garden

The best place to start making a difference is right in your own home. Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials to decrease household waste! Tips below will help you get started.

Lawn and Garden

  • Feed your soil with compost; make compost at home, or buy it in bags or bulk. Compost helps sandy soils hold nutrients and water, loosens clay soils, and feeds the organisms that are beneficial to soil.
  • Mow higher and leave the clippings. Modern mulching lawn mowers make "grasscycling" even easier. Homeowners can reduce their mowing time by 30 to 40 percent by not having to bag clippings.
  • Choose the right plant for the right place. Select plants that grow well in your area of the country and fit the amount of sun, type of soil and water available in your yard.
  • Give plants a good start. Prepare the soil by mixing one to three inches of compost into soil in planting beds.
  • Water deeply, but infrequently. Most plants do best if the soil is allowed to partially dry out between waterings.

At Home:

  • Reduce food waste by using up the food you already bought and have in the house instead of buying more. You already paid for it - so use it!
  • Non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food can be donated to local food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters.
  • Reuse items around the house such as rags and wipes, empty jars and mugs, party decorations, and gift wrap.
  • Buy products in concentrate, bulk, and in refillable containers. They reduce packaging waste and can save you money!
  • Return used car tires to retailers or wholesalers that recycle or retread them. Tires are banned from most landfills, and illegally dumped tires become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests.
  • When buying products, check the labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW):

  • Properly store any unused paint for future use, donate unused paint to neighbors or charities, or turn in your used paint to a waste collection facility for recycling.
  • Buy products that contain minimal amounts, or no, hazardous ingredients. Use alternative methods or products - without hazardous ingredients - for common household needs, such as making a household cleaning solution from 1 cup of warm water, 3 drops of vegetable-based liquid soap, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.
  • Products that contain hazardous ingredients should be used and stored properly to prevent accidents in the home. Never store hazardous products in food containers; keep them in their original containers and never remove labels. Corroding containers may require special handling. Call your local hazardous materials official or fire department for instructions.
  • Recycle or safely dispose of your HHW.

Home Improvement:

When choosing materials to improve or remodel your home, try to buy recycled products. Using recycled products helps reduce the amount of material going to landfills. Flooring, insulation, plastic lumber, woodwork, shingles, and many garden/lawn products are made from recycled materials.

  • If your house or apartment was built before 1978, it is likely to still have lead-based paint on walls and other surfaces. Lead in the environment is especially harmful to children and pregnant women. Before you begin any paint removal or remodeling projects, be sure to test for lead. You can hire a professional to remove it or do it yourself. If you do it yourself, spread tarps under the work area, don't work on windy days, and collect and dispose of your paint waste in a licensed sanitary landfill.
  • Install properly insulated skylights or larger windows to allow more natural light into your home. You will help reduce the amount of energy and electricity used to light your home.
  • Donate reusable old cabinets, doors, plumbing fixtures, and hardware to a local charity or building materials reuse center.
  • Reuse or recycle leftover cement, gravel, and sand whenever possible. Try not to mix up more fresh concrete or cement than you can use in a day.
  • When your home is undergoing major landscape renovation, try to conduct grading and excavating projects when chances of rain are minimal to prevent erosion and contamination of run-off water. Cover excavated materials, dumpsters, and stockpiles of asphalt, sand, and yard clippings to prevent contaminants from getting into storm drains.
  • Properly maintain home appliances and keep them clean to help ensure that they will run at peak efficiency. This also saves electricity, which conserves resources and reduces global warming. Remove lint and dust from your refrigerator coil and freezer. Clean up lint around your dryer, furnace, and any vents leading to or from them. Also, change or clean the filter in your air purifier or furnace.
  • For cleaning chores, try to use durable items such as mops and reusable rags or sponges. When using household cleaning products, be sure that you only use the amount you need, and that you read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use and disposal.
  • Properly store any unused paint for future use, donate unused paint to neighbors or charities, or turn in your used paint to a waste collection facility for recycling.
  • If you have a tile roof, check it thoroughly for cracks or missing tiles, and use roofing made from recycled rubber or plastic to make repairs.
  • Replace old insulation with insulation made from recycled paper, glass, and other recovered materials.
  • Check your heat pump or furnace and change the filter or make repairs if needed. Properly maintaining your furnace will conserve fuel by keeping it running efficiently and preventing leaks.
  • Remove screens from windows and doors and put up storm windows. Strong winds, heavy rains, and extreme cold can all damage your screens and ordinary windows, and send them to landfills before their time.
  • Check caulking around windows and do touch ups to conserve energy and natural resources.
  • When you're stuck inside on a rainy day, clean out your closet and collect the old clothes and toys for donation to a charity or your next garage sale.

Provided by the U.S. EPA


Q. What are the basics of the regulatory process?

A. Have you ever wondered how EPA protects the environment? The EPA uses a variety of tools and approaches, like partnerships, educational programs, and grants. One of their most significant tools is writing regulations. Regulations are mandatory requirements that can apply to individuals, businesses, state or local governments, non-profit institutions, or others.

Over the years, the U.S. Congress has passed a number of major environmental laws to protect our air, land and water resources. These laws typically authorize U.S. EPA and the local state EPA to help put them into effect by creating, enforcing and implementing regulations. Visit U.S. EPA's web page at to find a basic description of how environmental laws and regulations are developed, what they are, and where to find them.

Q. How do I reduce my carbon footprint?

A. Some specific practices that could be taken to make your carbon footprint smaller include the following:

  • Power off/unplug appliances not in use
  • Install EnergyStar® rated energy efficient appliances
  • Choose water-efficient appliances, in particular WaterSense labeled fixtures (they save energy, too!)
  • “Shower smarter” by taking shorter showers or using buckets to capture water while the shower is warming up (use the captured water for watering plants or even flushing toilets)
  • Reduce thermostat by at least two degrees
  • Limit car trips by relying on biking, walking, public transportation, and carpooling
  • Purchase locally grown produce
  • Increase the amount of material that you recycle
  • Talk about your decision to reduce your carbon footprint - a little conversation can inspire many!

Making these types of lifestyle changes will be a challenge, especially with our culture of consumption and convenience. Some people may choose to take all these actions at once while others may focus on a few actions at a time. Try using your calendar to help you tackle a couple of changes each week, or maybe there's an app that can help. However you choose to approach it, take this time to reflect on your relationship with the environment and how we can be good stewards of the resources we have available.

Provided by the U.S. EPA

Environmental Contribution

Do you have a local story of an outstanding group or individual that has contributed to a healthy environment that you would like to share with us? If so, please email us using the form below. If you prefer, you can fax, mail or call us with the following information.

Outstanding Person or Group

Submitting Person or Group

Please provide an email address or telephone number so we may contact you for further details if necessary.

Send eMail

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
1021 N. Grand Ave. East
PO Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
Phone: Toll Free 888-372-1996
Fax: 217-785-8346
Email: Kristi Morris

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