Pat Quinn, Governor
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Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
The Citizens’ Bulletin
Volume 9, Issue 3 – Summer 2013
In This Issue…
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.
Get to Know Your Air Quality
Throughout the year, there are days when air quality could pose potential health risks such as asthma and lung problems due to weather, high ozone levels, or other conditions. Summer is a great season to educate people across Illinois about the causes of outdoor air pollution, what people can do to protect their health when air quality is poor, and how they can reduce pollution by making simple choices in their daily lives.
Residents have the opportunity to become better informed about their air quality by signing-up for Illinois EnviroFlash, a free service that provides the air quality forecast (Chicago only) via email, text message or Twitter. Users can customize the service to notify them when certain air quality forecasts are expected. Illinois EnviroFlash also provides “Real Time” and Air Pollution Action Day alerts, when air pollution levels reach unhealthy levels.
Air pollution levels often increase between early May and late September. Air pollutants, specifically ozone and particulate matter, can affect a person’s respiratory and pulmonary system. Groups most susceptible to the risks include children (especially those with asthma), older adults, people with respiratory or heart diseases and people who are active outdoors.
Some ways to protect your health include planning activities with higher exertion during cooler times of the day, reducing exertion or limiting the time of exposure. In addition, individuals are encouraged to follow tips to reduce contributions to air pollution. Those include:
"Environmental Justice" is based on the principle that all people should be protected from environmental pollution and have the right to a clean and healthy environment. Environmental Justice helps to protect the health of the people of Illinois and its environment, equity in the administration of the State's environmental programs, and the provision of adequate opportunities for meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
The assumption of this policy is that it is evolutionary. As appropriate, Environmental Justice policies and activities will continue to develop through the normal course of the Agency's regulatory and programmatic duties. The Illinois EPA recognizes that this policy alone will not achieve environmental equity in all instances. Public and private commitment to the implementation of this policy is needed to achieve the goals of this policy and to promote environmental equity in this State.
The Illinois EPA is committed to protecting the health of the citizens of Illinois and its environment, and to promoting environmental equity in the administration of its programs to the extent it may do so legally and practicably. The Illinois EPA supports achieving environmental equity for all of the citizens of Illinois.
For more information on Environmental Justice, please contact Ken Page, Environmental Justice Officer, 1021 North Grand Ave. East (#38), P.O. Box 19276, Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276, Telephone (217) 524-1284.
Organic gardening offers fresh, tasty and nutritious food, while using composted organic matter to keep soil healthy and productive. Organic gardening promotes a healthier ecosystem by increasing the number and diversity of beneficial organisms and turning waste materials into valuable composts and fertilizers for the garden. It involves a more holistic approach to gardening that can enhance the garden environment, protect water quality and conserve natural resources. The use of organic fertilizers will build soil quality and add nutrients that are not easily washed away, which can reduce pollution in streams and lakes.
The University of Illinois Extension offers an online Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide that includes ten steps to a successful garden, garden problems and their control, tips on growing specific vegetables, and exhibiting vegetables.
The Local Harvest web page provides a search function for locally grown organic food near you, including farmers’ markets, restaurants, grocery stores and family farms that offer sustainably grown food by simply entering your zip code.
For more information on the environmental impacts of synthetic pesticides in Illinois, visit the Safer Pest Control Project’s web page. For more information on organic gardening including the benefits, please visit the following web pages: Organic Gardening Info and the Organic Gardening Guru.
Sun Safety and Sunscreen
Summertime is often equivalent to “school’s out,” outdoor activities and lots of swimming. This can mean lots of sun exposure. Therefore, it is important to understand the need to protect your skin as well as how to apply the different sunscreens that are available. To make it easier for people to choose products that effectively reduce the health risks of UV overexposure, the FDA has issued new labeling rules for sunscreen products. These include:
In addition to using Broad Spectrum sunscreen, here are some tips to help enjoy the outdoors safely throughout the summer:
Please visit the following web sites for more information:
Nations across the globe have made steady progress toward restoring the Earth’s protective high-altitude ozone layer through the groundbreaking environmental treaty called the Montreal Protocol. During the 1980s, scientists observed that the stratospheric ozone layer was getting thinner. This ozone layer acts as a shield in the atmosphere that protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.
The treaty was open for signature in 1987 and became effective in 1989. Signed by 197 countries, including the U.S. government, the Protocol is successfully working to phase out ozone-depleting substances. Due to its widespread adoption and implementation, it has been hailed as an example of outstanding international co-operation. Scientists predict that the ozone layer will return to pre-1980 levels later this century.
More on the Montreal Protocol,
Algae are important to any aquatic ecosystem and play a key role in our terrestrial environment by providing oxygen since the beginning of time. However, like with most things, too much of anything can be harmful. Freshwater algal blooms occur from too much algae production and are the result of an excess of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphates from fertilizers or household cleaning products. These nutrients can enter watersheds through water runoff that ultimately end up in local water bodies.
When nutrients are introduced into water systems, higher concentrations increase growth of algae and plants. Algae tend to grow very quickly under high nutrient and light availability. Dense growth of algae are known as algal blooms. However, each algal cell is short-lived, and when an algal bloom dies off, the result is a high concentration of dead organic matter which starts to decay. The decay process consumes dissolved oxygen in the water, resulting in hypoxic conditions. Without sufficient dissolved oxygen in the water, animals and plants may die off in large numbers.
Some blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, produce toxins that could pose a health risk to people and animals when they are exposed to them in large enough quantities. Blue-green algal blooms that have a negative effect on people or animals are known as Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). Health effects could occur when surface scums or water containing high levels of blue-green algal toxins are swallowed, through contact with the skin, or when airborne droplets containing toxins are inhaled while swimming, jet-skiing, tubing, bathing or showering.
Consuming water containing high levels of blue-green algal toxins has been associated with effects on the liver and on the nervous system in laboratory animals, pets, livestock and people. Livestock and pet deaths have occurred when animals consumed very large amounts of accumulated algal scum from along shorelines. Therefore, you should avoid direct contact with HABs and wait until the water is clear of algae blooms before swimming, skiing, or tubing, etc. If you have had contact with a blue-green algal bloom, you should wash with soapy water immediately and seek medical attention if experiencing signs of sickness. It is very important to not let your pet drink water or lick its fur from a pond or lake that has a blue-green algal bloom.
Blue-green algae like warm, still water. People should suspect that blue-green algae could be present in water that is visibly discolored or that has surface scums. Water affected by these algal blooms often is so strongly colored that it can develop a paint-like appearance, thick puffy foam on the surface of the water, or swirling colors beneath the surface of the water. Unpleasant tastes or odors are not reliable indicators of blue-green algal toxins or other toxic substances, because species producing blue-green algal toxins may or may not also produce chemicals that affect the taste or odor of drinking water. Similarly, the absence of unpleasant tastes and odors does not guarantee the absence of blue-green algal toxins. However, it is important to not confuse blue-green algal blooms with the nontoxic aquatic flora, such as long strands of green algae, duckweed, and filamentous algae.
More information can be found on US EPA’s web site.
Well Water Natural Disaster Preparedness
Information provided by the Illinois State Water Survey
In the event of a flood, store a supply of clean water that you can use during and after the flood. Disconnect the power supply to your well to prevent any electrical damage. Also, plug the vent holes temporarily to keep debris out of the well.
If flood water overtops the well, assume that the well water is contaminated. Once the water recedes, have your well disinfected and sampled for bacteria before using it again. Also, inspect your wellhead to be sure no debris got into the well. This is a particular concern if the vent screen is missing. If you think there is debris, have a contractor clean and disinfect your well.
Septic systems can also be damaged or cause contamination during floods. Make sure the access points are sealed. Your septic system should have a backflow preventer ahead of the tank to keep sewage from backing up into your home during a flood. If your septic system has its own pump, but sure to shut off the power.
In droughts, private wells can go dry. In case of a shallow dug or bored well, you may not have many options to restore the water supply to your home. These wells are built in areas without significant aquifers to store water that seeps into the well slowly.
In a very dry year, such as what occurred in some locations in Illinois in 2012, the water table may have dropped below the well. In this situation, one option is to have a portable water tank as a backup system. In some locations, a deeper well might be possible. Contact the Illinois State Water Survey to find out about your options.
When a power outage occurs, the only option is to have a backup generator to keep the well pump working. Keeping the power working is particularly important in the winter for older wells in which the piping comes to the surface. Loss of power could mean frozen pipes as well, which could burst. If you have a well house, it may be possible to use a portable propane heater to keep pipes from freezing.
Water well owners interested in learning how to maintain their own wells can take the Private Well Class, a free, step-by-step online education program to help well owners understand groundwater basics, well care best practices, and how to find assistance. Well owners will also learn how to sample their well, how to interpret sample results, and what they can do to protect their well and source water from contamination. For more information, visit the Private Well Class website or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In The Community
The Illinois EPA presented Environmental Excellence Awards to four Illinois students at the State Science Exposition. The competition was hosted by the Junior Academy of Science in Champaign on Saturday, May 4. The Environmental Excellence Award focuses on projects that promote and enhance the protection and care of the environment. Four projects were selected for recognition, two in each division: Junior (grades 7 and 8) and Senior (grades 9-12). The award recipients are:
The Illinois Junior Academy of Science provides students with insight into the problems and methods of thinking that are particular to the scientist but applicable to other occupations. The curriculum includes information concerning new investigations and discoveries in science and an understanding of the science-produced equipment used.
Criteria for the Environmental Excellence Award include issues such as addressing the prevention of pollution, the remediation of air, land or water, or analyzing the effect of pollution on our environment. The Illinois EPA provides the judges. Students whose projects were recognized for the Environmental Excellence Award receive a padfolio, a plaque and certificate.
Flood Safety Tips
Before a Flood
When a Flood is Imminent
During a Flood
After a Flood
If your water may not be safe, bring drinking water to a rolling boil for 1 minute to kill water-borne diseases.
Drinking water and food:
Private wells and septic systems:
More safety tips can be found on the National Safety Council’s web site.
For information on severe weather in Illinois, visit the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s Severe Weather Preparedness document.
**The mention of any products or services seen in the resource web sites in the articles above are not meant as an endorsement of any of these products or services by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
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.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
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