In the news: Great Lakes, Mississippi split sought

From the Chicago Tribune:
Six attorneys general in the Great Lakes region called for a multi-state coalition Wednesday that would push the federal government to protect the lakes from invasive species such as Asian carp by cutting off their artificial link to the Mississippi River basin.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the officials invited colleagues in 27 other states to join a lobbying campaign to separate the two watersheds, contending they have as much to lose as the Great Lakes do from migration of aquatic plants and animals that can do billions in economic damage and starve out native species. Read more.


Two new IL laws support medicine collection programs

Two bills signed by Governor Pat Quinn are going to make it much easier for people to properly dispose of their unused medicines. Improper storage and disposal of medicines can lead to unintentional poisonings, medicine diversion and misuse, and can negatively impact aquatic wildlife.

“One of the main road blocks to medicine collection programs is the cost of properly disposing of the materials once they are collected”, says Laura Kammin, IISG pollution prevention program specialist. “This legislation will help communities that could not previously afford to have a program to start new collection programs, and it will provide financial support for police departments that already have medicine collection programs in place. HB2056 will provide critical funding to keep medicines out of the water until a national funding program is put into place.”

On August 24, 2011, Governor Quinn signed two bills that will provide a major boost to unused medicine collection programs in Illinois. House Bill 2056, sponsored by Rep. JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch) and Sen. Suzi Schmidt (R-Villa Park) will make it easier for police departments in Illinois to pay for medicine collection programs. The new law authorizes law enforcement agencies to collect pharmaceuticals from residents and provides the funding to support collection and proper incineration of the medicines. Costs associated with medicine collection can be recovered through a $20 court fee levied against people who commit specified drug offenses.

House Bill 3090, sponsored by Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) and Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), authorizes the use of city halls or police departments to house medicine collection containers. Both laws go into effect on January 1, 2012.

“We don’t want these pharmaceuticals disposed of in an improper way. If they are just thrown down the toilet or thrown in the garbage they can end up in our water supply,” Governor Quinn said. “These bills will help Illinois conserve water, protect the safety of our drinking water supplies and ensure that unused medications are disposed of properly.”

Yesterday’s signing was actually the result of the hard work and enthusiasm of high school students. The Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program (P2D2), was launched by students at Pontiac Township High School and their ecology teacher, Paul Ritter. High school students from Antioch joined the program and brought the idea of a bill to fund household medicine disposal to Rep. Osmond.

“Through the hard work and dedication of students from Pontiac, Antioch, and other schools in the state of Illinois, and with the guidance of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, the P2D2 Bill [HB2056], which pays for the disposal of pharmaceuticals in Illinois, was signed by Governor Pat Quinn and become law,” said Ritter.

IISG and the P2D2 Program developed The Medicine Chest curriculum to educate other students around the country about proper disposal of medicines. And both organizations work together help communities start new medicine collection programs. For more information about how you can start a program in your community, contact Laura Kammin.

In the news: Panel rejects 5 states' bid to close Chicago-area shipping locks

From the Chicago Tribune:
A federal appeals panel Wednesday rejected the request of five Great Lakes states to close Chicago-area shipping locks. But the panel warned that the issue could be revisited if ongoing efforts to stop the advance of Asian carp stall.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals follows a district court decision in December concluding that the invasive species did not appear to be an imminent threat and that closing the locks still might not keep them from reaching Lake Michigan. Read more.


AIS community stewardship highlighted at geography conference

Amanda Miracle, an environmental science teacher at the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology, was invited by Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education, to co-present on her students’ aquatic invasive species (AIS) stewardship projects at the recent National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) Conference. Here, Amanda is demonstrating a ballast water simulation model showing how invaders can easily spread throughout the Great Lakes. One of the session’s attendees was a geography curriculum specialist from the Denver public school system.

This presentation is part of a larger campaign through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project, A Comprehensive Regional Public Outreach Campaign on AIS. A primary goal of this project is to actively involve Great Lakes region students in community stewardship projects, where they can implement their new understanding of AIS and associated impacts. This joint venture with teachers incorporates the Nab the Aquatic Invader! website, which is being enhanced with new activities and mapping information. A new AIS Stewardship Education Network—also serves to sustain and improve aquatic ecosystem biodiversity. Teachers in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and New York will be invited to co-present at next year’s NCGE conference in Texas.


In the news: Invasive species ballast battle gets bigger

From the Duluth News Tribune:
Researchers working with the American Steamship Co. tested a new system Sunday to kill invasive species in the ballast water of a 1,000-foot Great Lakes freighter.

Crews pumped a biocide into two of 10 ballast tanks in the Indiana Harbor as it left Gary, Ind., treating 1.8 million gallons of ballast water. The chemical then was neutralized with a second chemical as the boat moved across Lake Superior before releasing ballast in the Duluth-Superior harbor.

It’s believed to be the first such major-scale test on the Great Lakes, with researchers from multiple universities and federal agencies involved along with funding from multiple state and federal grants. The issue is important because state and federal governments are moving to require ballast treatment to help stop invasive species that cause an estimated $5.9 billion damage annually in the region. Read more.


In the news: Quinn Signs E-Recycling Measures

From NBC Chicago:
Governor Pat Quinn broke out his bill-signing pen once again Wednesday to sign legislation to increase e-recycling in Illinois.

Under the new law, the state's Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act will be overhauled, requiring more electronic products to be recycled. The recycling goals of manufacturers in Illinois also would be increased, and penalties on those who fail to follow the law will be strengthened. Read more.


IISG is looking for a media specialist

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) has announced the opening of a new position in the program—visiting media specialist. This is a 12-month part-time academic professional position. The new employee will focus on enhancing and optimizing IISG’s communication component with an emphasis on website and social media activities to expand overall awareness of Sea Grant program activities. The position will be located at the IISG office in Urbana, Illinois. The job may become non-visiting and up to full-time depending on funding and programmatic needs. Closing date for this position is Aug. 30, 2011. For job details and other pertinent information, visit the position announcement page or contact Lisa Merrifield.


Illinois State Fair goers learn to get rid of stuff sensibly

Kids are enjoying the Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly marble game, which gives them the chance to consider recycling, finding new homes for things, and bringing unwanted items to collection events. Robin Goettel (in blue) is one of many IISG staff members who are at the fair through August 20, providing information and inspiration to visitors in Conservation World.


In the news: Negative Image Aside, Asian Carp Are a Boon

From The New York Times:
When federal and state environmental regulators spent a few days at Lake Calumet in Chicago earlier this month fishing for Asian carp with stun guns and half-mile-wide nets, their hunt seemed to underscore the carp’s status as the Midwest’s ecological enemy No. 1.
The subject of endless debate over the best control strategies, Asian carp, an invasive species, have earned a place of dread in local lore. None, however, were found in the Lake Calumet search, and some scientists say the ecological concerns may be overblown.
For many people, Asian carp are proving more boon than bane. Bolstered by government support, the Asian carp harvest has leapt thirtyfold in the past decade, creating a new industry, attracting fishermen and entrepreneurs, and feeding people all over the world.
“We’ve been ramping up for years,” said Mike Schafer, owner of Schafer Fisheries. Read more.


Sea Grant to teach about recycling at Illinois State Fair

Look for Illinois Indiana Sea Grant's Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly display in Conservation World at the Illinois State Fair. The fair opens today, Aug. 11, and runs through Aug. 21. Get Rid of Stuff Sensibly provides helpful information about recycling, reusing or sensible disposing of a variety of items, including medicines, electronics, and aquarium fish and plants.

On Aug. 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20, Sea Grant staff members will be there to answer questions, hand out informational prizes, and provide the opportunity for kids to play our educational marble game.


Asian carp solutions: Take them to market

Last September, experts and stakeholders met to discuss ways to reduce Asian carp numbers by marketing the fish. In the months that followed, many who attended have been working hard to make the proposed solutions a reality.

At the marketing summit, which was organized by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), participants agreed that high-value Asian carp fillets marketed to restaurants and retailers may provide the financial incentive for extensive harvesting of these fish. Looking to have immediate impact, they also recommended that whole fish be exported in high numbers to Asian markets, where these species are already popular food fish. Finally, they recommended converting Asian carp by-products into pet food or treats to eliminate waste and maximize profit opportunities.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is now developing programs to help further the goals laid out during the summit. Tom Heavisides, IDNR contaminants assessment manager, said the organization is starting three pilot programs for this fall. They include an Asian carp food-handling training program, as well as another that will study marketing the invasive species. IDNR will also support researchers who will go to a pool of the Illinois River and study how pulling out Asian carp will ecologically affect the waters. All three projects are expected to be wrapped up by December.

The summit also provided opportunities to move new projects or plans forward. For example, Louisiana Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist Julie Anderson had been developing a plan with Operation Blessing, a non-profit organization, to send canned Asian carp to Haiti, where food is certainly needed and canned fish is preferred.

“At this point, we have been trying to pursue finding a company that is interested in doing the canning operation,” Anderson said.

The idea of marketing Asian carp has also received significant media exposure since the summit. For example, the New York Times recently published the article “Answer for Invasive Species: Put It on a Plate and Eat It.” However, this idea is not without controversy. IISG Aquatic Invasives Coordinator Pat Charlebois said some Great Lakes states are concerned about the idea of marketing Asian carp, but she believes there may not be any other options in the case of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

“The only other way to do this, I believe, is to harvest these fish and leave them on a shore or landfill to rot,” she said. “But that’s such a waste and all that harvesting is an expensive proposition.”

Charlebois said some are afraid that people will begin transplanting the species to other areas if there is a market for them, which would only intensify the problem.

“One of the reasons common carp were introduced here was because Europeans wanted food fish that they were familiar with,” Charlebois said. “It is historically a way these species have been spread. But I think there are ways we can reduce that risk.”

Ron Brooks, the fisheries division director for Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, has been diligently working on the Asian Carp issue for years, even before the invasive species was making big headlines. He said he is hoping to shift focus away from the Great Lakes to the states of the lower basin.

“Our message is pretty simple: If you don’t control the Asian carp numbers down here, you are never going to keep them out of the Great Lakes,” Brooks said. “If we don’t do something to crop off the spread of Asian carp, they are going to keep spreading. That is what they do; they stay in an area until they run out of food and then move on.”

However, Brooks added that funding right now is the major roadblock, but he hopes the summit will inspire people to get out and work on the problem.

“The meeting got all the stakeholders together to talk about this issue. It gave a good perspective from all sides,” he said. “But the commercial fishermen and the managers are out there every day, and they know something has to be done right now.”

The two-day summit took place at the Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois, with sponsorship from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. The proceedings from the summit can found in our online catalog.


In the news: Toxic chromium found in Chicago drinking water

From the Chicago Tribune:
Chicago's first round of testing for a toxic metal called hexavalent chromium found that levels in local drinking water are more than 11 times higher than a health standard California adopted last month.

But it could take years before anything is done about chromium contamination in Chicago and scores of other cities, in part because industrial polluters and municipal water utilities are lobbying to block or delay the Obama administration's move toward national regulations. Read more.


In the news: New smartphone app hits the Great Lakes beach

A new smartphone app provides beach advisories and other environmental information in real time.

The myBeachCast app provides hourly updates from beach databases in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, said Christine Manninen, communications and web programming director at the Great Lakes Commission, the Ann Arbor-based agency that developed the widget.

Illinois will join soon. Read more.


Have a stockpile of unwanted medicines?

You know not to flush your unused medications down the toilet. But you have children or pets in your home, which makes discarding the medicines in the trash a risky proposition. And you’re busy. So despite that nagging feeling that you really need to get rid of this stuff somehow, figuring out how to dispose of unused medicines just isn’t a high priority. The result? The medicines keep accumulating. If this describes your situation, know that you aren’t alone. And help is coming….on October 29, 2011 from 10a.m. to 2p.m.

That day, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will be holding its third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to help consumers safely dispose of unused, unneeded, and expired prescription medications, including controlled substances. During the first two DEA Take-back days more than 309 tons of pills were turned in at collection sites across the country.

“Due to the negative impacts that improper medicine disposal has on wildlife and the potential for accidental poisonings or drug diversion if the meds aren’t disposed of, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant always recommends that people take their unused medications to a local collection program,” said Laura Kammin, pollution prevention specialist. “Unfortunately, not every community has a collection program in place. That’s why we encourage people to participate in the DEA events.”

So if you have a stockpile in your medicine chest, and no local collection program, take heart. Remember to watch for updates on locations for the take-back day in October. If you want to be sure there is one in your community, contact Laura Kammin for more information. Further information about the upcoming DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is also available on the DEA website.

If you would like more information about organizing a take-back program in your community, check out IISG’s toolkit Disposal of Unwanted Medicines:
A Resource for Action in Your Community


Meet the new members of the IISG AIS team

IISG’s aquatic invasive species (AIS) team is back up to full speed. Sarah Zack is the program’s new AIS specialist and Danielle Hilbrich is the new AIS assistant. Both will assist Pat Charlebois, the program’s AIS coordinator, located at the Chicago Botanic Gardens in Glencoe, Illinois.

Sarah will be responsible for outreach to recreational water users, including promoting the Stop Aquatic Hitchhiker Campaign as part of a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant. With funding from National Sea Grant, Sarah will be responsible for researching and developing AIS best management practices for tournament anglers.

Sarah comes to IISG from Loyola University Chicago where she was a biology instructor. Prior to that she worked as a wildlife biologist for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources where, among other things, she was integral in the chronic wasting disease program for the state. Sarah has a B.S. in zoology from University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.S. in biology with an emphasis on aquatic ecology from Loyola.

Danielle will be working on all aspects of AIS outreach, including helping out on the GLRI project and developing AIS risk assessment tools for the Great Lakes. Previously, Danielle was a research fellow for the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education and was appointed to the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. There, she contributed to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, worked on the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conferences and with the associated Great Lakes Indicators, and spent time on the U.S. EPA research vessel, the Lake Guardian. Danielle has a B.A. in environmental science and geography from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.