In the news: Scientists head to D.C. with mercury findings

From the Great Lakes Echo:
Scientists are in Washington D.C. today to present to federal lawmakers research suggesting the Great Lakes region has more problems with mercury than previously thought.

Their visit comes just weeks after the GOP-led House of Representative passed two bills that would handcuff the EPA from limiting mercury emissions.

As Echo reported, scientists reviewed research on mercury in the Great Lakes region and found despite overall decreases in the pollutant, concentrations are rising in some species and health risks are occurring at lower levels than expected. Read more.


In the news: Study: Basins separation could hurt water quality

The Alton Telegraph:
A hydrological separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins would send Asian carp swimming back downstream, but also alter water quality.
The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study under way by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Chicago District aims to find a solution that would halt migration of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species into Lake Michigan. But a hydrological separation also could affect other things, such as water quality or flooding.
So far, research indicates that while a separation of the waterways likely would not affect the degree of flooding Downstate, it could change the quality of water flowing toward Alton and St. Louis. The water now flowing this way contains treated wastewater and storm water runoff.
The feasibility portion of the federal study, anticipated for public review in draft form by early 2015, requires the corps to build models to test its theories before publishing any findings. Read more.


Clear Out Your Medicine Cabinet on October 29

Do you have unwanted medicines taking up needed space in your cabinets? Have you been waiting for a better disposal option than flushing them down the toilet or tossing them in the trash? Then mark your calendar for Saturday, October 29. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will be partnering with communities around the country to host another medicine collection event that day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This is an opportunity to dispose of your expired or unneeded medicines in a way that protects people, pets, and the environment.  To find a collection event near you go to the DEA website. IISG will be hosting two collection events in Illinois: in Mahomet (601 E. Main Street), and in Maroa (120 S. Locust St).

Controlled, non-controlled, and over-the-counter medications will be collected. You can bring in liquids and creams as long as they are in their original containers with the cap tightly sealed to prevent leakage. Intravenous solutions, injectibles, and syringes will not be accepted.

This event builds on the previous two DEA sponsored National Prescription Drug Take Back days, held in September 2010 and April 2011, in which more than 309 tons of medicine were collected.

A goal of the collection event is to help curb the rising trend of drug-related injuries and deaths, both accidental poisonings and overdoses. But it also serves to help protect the environment.

Pharmaceuticals that are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash eventually reach our rivers, streams, and lakes. Ultimately this can contaminate our drinking water and has been proven to harm wildlife. While the long-term impacts on human health are not known, there’s a long list of pharmaceuticals that are causing negative ecological effects. Progestin, a common contraceptive, has been shown to disrupt reproductive development in frogs. Trenblone, a steroid used in veterinary medicine, causes irreversible fish masculinization. And antidepressants have been found to impair predator avoidance in larval fathead minnow and in shrimp.

All of the medicine collected at the events will be incinerated by the DEA. For more information about this event, or permanent medicine collection programs, contact Laura Kammin.


In the news: Suburbs would get soaked by water-rate hike too

From the Chicago Tribune:
The ripple effects of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to hike water rates are spreading quickly into far-flung suburbs.

Residents and businesses in about 130 area suburbs and subdivisions that rely on city-supplied Lake Michigan water will also be hit by big rate hikes that Emanuel wants to impose on city dwellers to overhaul the water delivery system, the mayor acknowledged Friday. Read more.


In the news: Report says farm runoff declining near Great Lakes

From the Chicago Tribune:
Farmers are making significant cutbacks in erosion of soil and nutrients into the Great Lakes, where runoff is suspected of being a leading contributor to rampant growth of algae that damages water quality, a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report said.

The study estimated that because of changes in cultivation practices, the amount of sediments washing into rivers and streams that feed the lakes is 50 percent less than it would have been otherwise. Nitrogen and phosphorus runoff is about one-third lower than it would have been without the improvements. Read more.


IISG in the news: Emerging Contaminants, Emerging Solutions

A blog post from the Metropolitan Planning Council:


Invasive species workshop provides teachers Chicago River tour

Since youth are the future, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) has been working hard to get students actively engaged in becoming tomorrow’s stewards of the Great Lakes. On November 5, IISG will hold the “Stop the Aquatic Hitchhikers” workshop, which will give teachers the information and resources they need to educate students about keeping the Great Lakes healthy.

“We will supply teachers with tools to help them provide authentic, issue-based learning opportunities for their students,” said Robin Goettel, IISG associate director for education. “This workshop will give teachers first-rate classroom activities. It will also provide them with field-based experience on the Chicago River to help them understand the biology, spread, and impacts of aquatic invasive species, as well as the best approaches for the public to take action and control them.”

IISG is also partnering with the Friends of Chicago River for an afternoon field trip that will give workshop attendees an up-close and personal experience with the Chicago River and its organisms, as well as tour of the riverbank area to see examples of best management practices for water conservation.  

Teachers will also explore how to incorporate problem-based learning about invasive species, how to involve their students in a community stewardship project, and how to integrate content about aquatic invasive species in their biology, geography, and environmental science units.

Teachers who attend will receive a $200 stipend upon completion of their classroom stewardship projects. Plus they will receive classroom resources, including posters, the Great Lakes Invasion curriculum guide, the Stewardship Projects on Exotic Aquatic Species guide, as well as Continuing Professional Development Units.

Also, the best stewardship project will qualify one teacher to win free registration at the National Geographic Council for Education 2012 Conference in San Marcos, Texas.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will meet at the Volunteer Resource Center at Edgebrook Woods in Chicago, Ill. To register for this workshop, contact Terri Hallesy. To see more educational resources and student activities, visit Nab the Aquatic Invader!.

For this event, IISG has also partnered with the Illinois Geographic Alliance, and the Chicago Geographical Society. Funding is through the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


SOLEC 2011 expands on the land-water connection

Researchers over the past three years have been studying the chemical, biological, and physical indicators of the Great Lakes ecosystem’s health, and this information will be presented in the upcoming two-day State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC).

“This conference brings people together who make decisions that affect the Great Lakes. This brings to them the most up-to-date science of this ecosystem, which lays the foundation for them to make decisions about the future,” said ParisCollingsworth, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Great Lakes ecosystem specialist, who also serves on the SOLEC Executive Committee. IISG has been working to provide support and promote the conference.

SOLEC is being hosted by U.S. EPA and Environmental Canada. This year’s theme is “Linking Land to the Lakes,” which will expand on the 2008 conference’s focus on the nearshore. The event will also highlight land-based issues that relate to the Great Lakes’ water quality.

The keynote speaker is Robert Glennon, who will talk about the actions required to improve the United States’ water crisis. He is also the author of Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to do About It.

The event is being held Oct. 26 and 27 at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, Penn. For more information, or to register, visit the SOLEC 2011 web page. Registration is open until Oct. 14, and the full event costs $190.

Purdue Green Week hosts medicine collection event

From Carolyn Foley, IISG assistant research coordinator:
Green Week is a week-long event, sponsored by the Purdue University Sustainability Council, intended to teach faculty, staff, students and local citizens how to lead greener, cleaner lives. On September 30, as part of Green Week 2011, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant hosted a booth at the Sustainable World Expo. Angela Archer and I demonstrated the good work being done by IISG specialists and provided information on stopping the spread of invasive species, keeping unwanted chemicals out of the waterways, and developing sustainable aquaculture practices.

Students from the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Purdue Chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association collected unwanted medicines and educated expo-goers about how to dispose of their unwanted medicines in responsible ways. Although just about 10 people brought in medicines, those that brought, brought a lot. We heard from more than one, “I’ve been waiting for an event like this for a long time!”

 In spite of the windy weather, many participants learned something along the way and new partnerships were forged between IISG and members of the Purdue community. 


In the news: Voracious invasive quagga mussels gobbling Great Lakes' food chain

From the Detroit Free Press:
They eat as much as 98% of their weight each day, multiply rapidly and could alter the Great Lakes forever.

No, they aren't Asian carp. They are the true scourge of the lakes: quagga mussels. Their exploding numbers and rapid spread are leading scientists to use words like "startling," "dramatic" and "unprecedented."

"Quaggas are causing the biggest changes we've ever seen in Lake Michigan," said Tom Nalepa, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory who has studied the lake for more than 30 years. "The numbers are still going up. We are going to see more severe impacts." Read more.