Pat Quinn, Governor
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Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
The Citizens’ Bulletin
Volume 10, Issue 3 –Fall 2014
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.
Air Quality Forecasts
Illinois EnviroFlash is an online tool that sends air quality forecasts and Air Pollution Action Day alerts directly to a subscriber's email. The program is a partnership between the Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA.
Air quality affects how we live and breathe. Like the weather, it can change from day to day. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color-coded system that classifies air quality from Good to Hazardous. Air Pollution Action Day Alerts are issued when air quality levels over a large area are expected to reach the category Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, or Orange on the AQI, for multiple days.
Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Algal Toxins
Blue-green algae are microscopic organisms that occur naturally in Illinois lakes and streams. Despite their name, blue-green algae are actually types of bacteria known as cyanobacteria. When certain conditions are present, such as high nutrient and light levels, these organisms can reproduce rapidly. This dense growth of algae is called a "bloom." Blue-green algal blooms can discolor the water or produce floating scums on the surface of the water, especially along shorelines. While blooms can occur at any time of year, they are primarily a concern during the summer months because that is when people are likely to come in contact with them.
What are Harmful Algal Blooms?
Recycle Your Mercury-switch Thermostat
While most blue-green algal blooms are not harmful, some can be. Under certain conditions that are not well understood, some blue-green algae are capable of producing algal toxins that could pose a health risk or harm people and animals when exposed to them in large enough quantities (Harmful Algal Blooms, or "HABs").
Is there a Concern about Algal Toxins in Illinois?
While there are many different known algal toxins, the most common one found in Illinois is called microcystin, a known liver-damaging toxin. Adverse health effects could occur when waters exhibiting a blue-green algal bloom are swallowed, come in contact with skin, or when airborne droplets containing toxins are inhaled while swimming, boating, waterskiing, tubing, bathing or showering. Pets are also at risk when allowed to drink or swim in surface water containing a blue-green algal bloom. Health effects can include asthma-like symptoms, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, or nervous system effects depending on the exposure level and type of toxin present in the water.
Monitoring conducted by Illinois EPA from 2005-2008 showed that microcystin was frequently detected in Illinois lakes and streams (50.5% of the samples collected), but concentrations were generally below levels of concern. Unfortunately, monitoring conducted during the 2012 summer drought revealed a different story. (See "2012 Drought and HAB Reconnaissance Monitoring Effort")
What should I do if I see a bloom?
People should use common sense when dealing with algae. It is impossible to tell from a visual inspection whether an algal bloom is toxic. The safest thing to do is to treat every algal bloom as if it could be dangerous.
For more information, visit Illinois EPA's web site. http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/algal-bloom/index.html
New LibGuide: Illinois Environmental Law
The new LibGuide was created by Jessica Tieman through the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Spring 2014 semester. It serves as a reference aid for Illinois Statutory Law regarding environmental and pollution regulations, sustainability initiatives, and energy efficiency standards, and includes basics on understanding the legislative process.Separate tabs have been created to discuss information specific to Environmental Regulation (how it is enforced, what it entails, resources), the literal statutes (grouped by location in Illinois Compiled Statutes), and Administrative Agencies (Illinois Government bodies that deal with environmental acts but do not necessarily enforce law). For more information or to explore the web site, visit The University of Illinois, University Library. http://uiuc.libguides.com/Illinois-Environmental-Law
For more information on household hazardous waste collections, visit the Illinois EPA's web site. www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/household-haz-waste/
Lincoln Trail Hike
Following Earth Day in late April, over 700 area Boy Scouts spent the day taking part in the annual Lincoln Trail Hike, named so because hikers retraced the steps of a young Abraham Lincoln as he journeyed from New Salem to Springfield to borrow books. The Lincoln Trail Hike was part of the weekend activities of the 69th Annual Lincoln Pilgrimage, which was hosted by the Abraham Lincoln Council Boy Scouts of America. This marked the 20th year the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has teamed with the Council for the event.
Hikers began their trek between 6 and 9:30 a.m. at the New Salem State Park and finished their 20-mile hike at Stuart Park in Springfield. Scouts were able to walk the path Lincoln walked, along the scenic roadway through Sangamon and Menard Counties. All the while, hikers collect trash along the trail.
Volunteers from the Illinois EPA, as well as the Lt. Governor's Office and other state agencies, donated their time to staff the rest stations along the trail route, where drinking water, restrooms, trash collection bags, and other support are provided for the hikers. Upon completing the hike, Scouts received a "Lincoln Trail Hike & Clean Up" patch from the Agency in recognition of their efforts.
"The volunteers and support from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency help make this hike safer and more meaningful for the Scouts," said Pilgrimage Committee Chairman Dan Usherwood. "Scouting teaches our Scouts to be good stewards of our natural resources. The Illinois EPA's participation emphasizes the importance of our environment and provides our hikers an opportunity to clean up a historic trail."
Waste Management Inc., of Springfield, donates services each year by providing disposal for the trash that is collected. Proceeds from the recyclable items will be returned to the area Boy Scouts Council. American Radio Relay League amateur radio operators provide communications support for the day. Coca Cola provides refreshments, and the Illinois Air National Guard provides a tent and first-aid medical support.
In the Community
Four Science Students Receive Environmental Excellence Awards from Illinois EPA
The Illinois EPA presented Environmental Excellence Awards to four Illinois students at the State Science Fair Exposition. The competition was hosted by the Junior Academy of Science at NIU in DeKalb on Saturday, May 3.
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 winners are:
Niles West High School in Skokie
Project Title: The Synthesis of Faujasite Zeolite as a Novel Method of Oil Spill Treatment
Project Category: Environmental Science
Southeastern Senior High School in Augusta
Project Title: Second Generation Biofuels: A Comparison of Agricultural Biomasses
Project Category: Environmental Science
Unity Point School in Carbondale
Project Title: Butt What? The Effect of Cigarette Butt Leachate on Growth of Microorganisms
Project Category: Environmental Science
Gower Middle School in Burr Ridge
Project Title: Cleaning Up Oil Spills with Ferrafluids
Project Category: Environmental Science
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 provided the judges. Students whose projects were recognized for the Environmental Excellence Award received a padfolio, a plaque and certificate.
Making smart choices about what we buy, how we use it, and how we dispose of it can make a big difference in the amount of waste we produce and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our consumption. The manufacture, distribution and use of the goods and food we rely on in our daily lives-as well as management of the resulting waste-all require energy. This energy mostly comes from fossil fuels, which are the largest global source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The 2009 report, Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices (PDF)(98pp, 1.5MB ++ About PDF), shows that approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. This includes the extraction or harvest of materials and food, production and transport of goods, provision of services, reuse of materials, recycling, composting, and disposal. The report also indicates the following:
In every stage of the life cycle, we can reduce our impact. Click on the Life Cycle of Stuff to learn about the greenhouse gas emissions that result from each step in a product's life cycle. Find out what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and learn how to reduce your impact at every stage of the life cycle.
#ActOnClimate tips page: http://epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/
Nutrients in the Fall
Fall is the best time to apply compost or manure to help increase the biological activity (and associated benefits) within healthy soil. Healthy soil promotes healthy plants and reduces the potential for pest infestations. The fall is also the best time to apply fertilizers to promote early seed germination and deep, healthy root systems. In addition, you may want to plant a cover crop in the winter, such as winter oats and/or rye to help smother weeds, capture residual nutrients from fertilizer and hold them in the soil profile and to help prevent erosion.
Anyone with a garden, flower bed or yard can save money by practicing nutrient management, which is the wise use of nutrient resources for an intended purpose. Soil tests can help to identify the existing soil fertility so that the amount of fertilizer truly needed can be determined; thus saving money and preventing over fertilizing. If a soil test has not been done in the last three years or so, there are probably too many nutrients being applied that are wasted or even worse, possibly lost through water movement. The soil should be tested at least every three or four years.
By reducing soil erosion and managing the nutrients applied on crop fields, lawns and gardens, the amount of nutrients that may be lost are reduced from water runoff and through the transport of nutrients attached to soil carried by water into our lakes, rivers and streams. Once nutrients (and soil) get into the water bodies it can be very expensive to remove, and accumulation can cause dramatic changes in a waterbody. Preventing nutrient loss at the source will help keep water bills lower. Dredging soil sediment from a lake or having to buy land and build another lake because of reduced lake capacity can make current water bill seem like a real bargain. Also, grocery store costs can be reduced by producing food more efficient with nutrient management.
Nutrient management can also help to reduce the need for additional regulations on water quality. Regulations and restrictions are put into place to protect resources, public safety and many other reasons, which can also be costly to administer. Nutrient management can help to create jobs in the area of local food systems including marketing and distribution, soil testing services and composting businesses, just to name a few. In addition, it helps to lessen the negative effects on wildlife and ecosystems that are already stressed due to a multitude of reasons, and it helps to relieve the implications on recreational activities like fishing and water skiing or public health.
For more information on nutrient issues, visit Illinois EPA's web site on excess nutrients http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/nutrient/index.html or U.S. EPA's web site on nutrient pollution http://epa.gov/nutrientpollution/problem/index.html.
For more information on gardening, visit the University of Illinois Extension's Master Gardener Course Hot Links (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/mglinks/garden.html). It provides information on grasses, houseplants, vegetable gardening, landscaping and weed identification resources. It also contains a wealth of knowledge on botany, soil, pests and disease, ornamentals, fruits, environmental concerns, and other related links. More information on fertilizers and pesticides can be found online at Illinois EPA's web site under Lake Notes http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/conservation/lake-notes/fertilizers-pesticides.pdf.
In The Garden Tips
Provided by the U.S. EPA http://www.epa.gov/epahome/hi-summer.htm
Lawn and Garden
A beautiful and healthy lawn is good for our environment. It can resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests. Pesticides can be effective, but need to be used according to the directions on the label and should not be relied on as a quick-fix to lawn problems. Here are some tips to follow:
Do you use pressure-treated lumber on your deck, fence, post or gazebo? Learn about CCA (chromated copper arsenate), a wood preservative that contains arsenic, and learn about alternatives to CCA.
Using and Storing Gasoline In the summer, lots of portable containers are used to store and transport fuels for lawnmowers, chainsaws and recreational vehicles. These portable containers can emit hydrocarbons; in addition, spills can leak into ground water. Here are some tips to follow to reduce these concerns:
Use Pesticides Safely
If you decide that the best solution to your pest problem is a pesticide, follow these tips when selecting and using a garden product:
"Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings." This Spanish/English brochure outlines the ten most important steps you can take to protect children from accidental poisonings associated with the presence of lead and pesticides in the home. A "must" for parents. Learn why children may be especially sensitive to pesticides.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency offers a Ready Illinois web site http://www.illinois.gov/ready/Pages/default.aspx that provides a wealth of information regarding the following: emergency preparedness, including types of hazards, making a plan, and building an emergency kit; after a disaster that includes recover, financial issues and volunteer opportunities; local resources; and current issues. There is even a page that offer tips for safe vacations and how to prepare your pets. http://www.illinois.gov/ready/Press/Pages/060313.aspx
In the News
Fall Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events
The remaining household hazardous waste collections scheduled for the fall of 2014 are included below. 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.
Each one-day collection is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the specified Saturday:
In addition to the above one-day collections, the Illinois EPA also continues to support the following long-term collection facilities:
Clean Water Initiative
Governor Quinn first launched the $1 billion Illinois Clean Water Initiative in his 2012 State of the State Address to help local governments rebuild or repair clean water infrastructure. These projects ensure that facilities are being upgraded to protect our streams and rivers, our drinking water supplies and the environment as a whole. In July, Governor Quinn signed legislation that doubles Clean Water Initiative funding to $2 billion and expands the program to include stormwater management and treatment projects. To date, more than $800 million in wastewater and drinking water loans have been awarded under the Illinois Clean Water Initiative. To learn more about the Illinois Clean Water Initiative, visit www.cleanwater.illinois.gov. Below are some of the recent projects announced.
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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