Roxana Marsh cleanup reaches completion

Officials, agencies, and students involved in the cleanup of Roxana Marsh in East Chicago, Indiana, gathered to celebrate the completion of the project earlier this month. The removal of contaminated sediment and the replanting of native species are designed to help the Grand Calumet River recover from many years of environmental problems. 

“The $52 million project removed more than 575,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment from the waterway in a joint effort of the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Indiana Department of Natural Resources.”
Image courtesy Northwest Indiana Times
IISG’s Caitie McCoy was involved throughout the project as well, working with local students to remove invasive species and even grow some native plants in their classrooms to place at the site once cleanup was completed. 

For more information about this or other Great Lakes Legacy Act projects, visit the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes Legacy Act site


New specialist will help communities sustain natural resources

Kara Salazar is IISG’s new sustainable communities extension specialist, located in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She will design an extension program to empower communities to sustain natural resources. Kara will develop products, programs, and resources that will assist communities in identifying a range of issues that impact their sustainability and in making informed land use and policy decisions. These sustainability issues include recycling, lawn management, green infrastructure, water conservation, natural resource based planning, alternative energy strategies and more.

Kara has a M.P.A. in natural resource management and nonprofit management from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She also received a M.S.Ed. degree from the IU School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) as well as a Certificate in Fundraising Management from IU.  She came to Sea Grant and Purdue Extension from an education outreach position in the Department of Earth Sciences, Center for Earth and Environmental Science at IUPUI.


Technical assistance grants available for community planning projects in NE Illinois

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning has recently announced a call for project proposals to receive grant money under their Local Technical Assistance program. 

By offering grants to communities, CMAP hopes to help the entire region achieve the goals laid out in the GO TO 2040 plan that will improve community health, governance, resources, and more

The deadline for community applications is August 1 of this year, and eligible groups include “municipalities, counties, multijurisdictional groups, or nongovernmental organizations.” 

Follow the links above to find out specific application and program information, including suitable projects and more.


Growing water needs and shifting availability require new solutions

We’ve likely all heard about water conservation at various times – whether from our parents (don’t leave the water running), our neighborhoods (in the case of lawn watering rules and schedules), or from kids in line at the water fountain (“Save some for the fish!”). 

Conserving water has always been important for a number of reasons, but recent studies are showing that it’s a serious issue. As the need for water grows worldwide, the way that we use water requires some significant consideration, study, and action. 

Innovative new systems that reuse water for various needs and purposes are taking this issue and applying a potential solution. Rather than just turning off the faucet or washing the car less frequently, these systems or processes recycles large amounts of non-potable water for agricultural, landscape, and industrial applications. 

From the website Environmental Protection Online
“Water is reused in two main ways: non-potable reuse, in which treated wastewater is used for agriculture and landscape irrigation, industrial applications (such as cooling processes), toilet flushing and fire protection; and indirect reuse of wastewater to recharge ground water supplies, allowing treated wastewater to percolate down to aquifers and replenish water sources. Overall, non-potable and indirect reuse of water in the U.S. is growing rapidly, with more than 2 billion gallons reused per day, and volume increases at an estimated 15 percent annually.”
Find out more about some of the systems being developed and how reuse can have an impact in helping us meet these growing water needs by reading the full article.


Local water travels a long, long way

A lot of people are probably familiar with the streams, lakes, and rivers near where they live. Many people might even be able to point out where their local water treatment plant is. But what a lot of people might not know is that the water we use often comes from a long, long way away. 

Watersheds are areas where water comes together and drains to a common place. In addition to the streams and rivers and creeks that we can see, though, watersheds encompass a huge range of pathways for water, and your nearby water supply might be part of a very large system that spans multiple states. 

As a result, even in areas where there aren’t necessarily rivers nearby, what goes into our water directly or indirectly can have a big impact. Development and sprawl, even well outside of cities and away from rivers or lakes, can have a significant effect, and that is the focus of a recent article from The Atlantic Cities
“Of course, obtaining sustainable development in town isn’t enough, in and of itself, to guarantee high quality, fishable and swimmable rivers and streams. Industry plays a part; utilities and waste water treatment plants play a part; sensitive farming, ranching, and/or timbering play a part, all in different proportions depending upon the particular watershed in question.” 
The interconnectedness of watersheds is one of the main motivations behind initiatives like Lawn to Lake and Unwanted Medicines – keeping the bad stuff out of our water protects people, plants, and animals across a wide region. 

Read the complete article to learn more about the connectedness of waterways and watersheds. 


Happy summer! Happy, healthy lawns!

Today is the first day of summer! Perhaps this leads you outside to attend to your lawn and garden. And, with the weather being pretty dry lately, lawns and gardens may indeed take extra care.

While the obvious answer to this year’s drought advisory may be to water the lawn, this may not be the best solution. Brown grass is a sign that the lawn is entering a period of dormancy, a normal state for the cool-season perennial grasses that comprise the majority of Illinois and Indiana lawns. So, you may need to decide whether to let your lawn go dormant in the summer or continue watering.

IISG’s MargaretSchneemann is the coordinator for Lawn to Lake, a project to encourage natural lawn care, thereby helping to reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers that end up in our waters. But, conserving water use is key as well. Here are her tips:

My neighbors are asking me why my lawn is looking greener than theirs even though I am not irrigating the lawn. The trick is following a natural lawn care program that increases the drought-tolerance of the lawn, extending the greening of the lawn longer into the summer season. For established lawns, a few simple natural lawn care steps include:

          *·     Mow lawn high throughout the summer (3-3.5 inches).
          *.      Water deeply once per week in the morning.
          *.      Avoid pesticide use on drought stressed lawns. 
    *.   Do not apply excess nitrogen fertilizer in the summer; wait until the fall. 
    *.   Aerate and overseed to prevent thatch and increase turf density.

If you decide to let the lawn go dormant, the question to ask is: How much water does it take to keep the lawn alive? For a lawn that is drying out, applying 1/3 inch of water every three weeks will keep your lawn dormant, but ready to green up again when conditions improve.

If you aren’t considering letting your lawn go dormant, keep these point in mind:
     Maintaining a green lawn in hot summer conditions can double the  amount of watering necessary to maintain the lawn (two inches per week).
*       Watering needs to be done before the lawn becomes dormant, when the very first signs of drought stress appear. DO NOT start watering a lawn that has already browned and entered a state of dormancy, as it will stress the grass plants, promote weeds, and encourage undesirable insects, such as grubs, to take up residence in the lawn.
·*      Many municipalities have lawn watering restrictions during these hotter summer months when increasing water demand for lawn irrigation is at its peak. Familiarize yourself with any lawn watering restrictions and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
For more information, visit www.lawntogreatlakes.org.


In the news: Final river dredging steps to begin next week

 From the sheboyganpress.com
Work on the final steps to clean the Sheboygan River will begin next week with contractors moving in equipment and preparing the former Alliant Energy building parking lot as a staging area and sludge drying area.

Sludge from dredging the river between the Eighth Street bridge and the 14th Street bridge will be deposited at the site where it will be dried and then hauled to landfills.
Dredging work will begin after July 4, city Development Manager Chad Pelishek said. Read more.

IISG’s Caitie McCoy has been very involved in the Sheboygan River AOC project, helping to provide information to the community and to all of the agencies and individuals involved in the project.

Working with project partners, she has developed a new publication that answers the most common and important questions that community members have had about the project. Available now for download, the pamphlet “A Cleaner, Deeper River Coming Soon!” addresses questions ranging from specific areas that will be dredged, disposal of the polluted materials that are removed, and positive impacts for wildlife and the community once the project is complete. 

You can also see a short video that explains how the Sheboygan River cleanup will benefit the area. It was developed by Caitie and John Karl, Wisconsin Sea Grant videographer.

University of Wisconsin Extension is another great source of information about the Sheboygan River dredging.


IISG and the Windy City Earth Force team up to empower Chicago students

IISG education team members Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy partnered with Angie Viands of the Field Museum’s Earth Force Program, along with students and teachers within the Calumet community to raise awareness about properly disposing of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).

Windy City Earth Force is part of the museum’s Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP). Earth Force is a program that engages 7th and 8th grade students in action projects to address environmental issues in their community.

Students from four schools developed community-based information projects that were showcased at the Earth Force youth summit at Chicago’s Field Museum on May 8, 2012.

Below is a rundown of the final projects that were part of the event: 

Thomas Hoyne Elementary
Ms. Pettis' 7th grade students' goal was to find out about potential health concerns for humans and animals caused by PPCPs and to find out what health concerns may lurk within our water supply.

They produced several informational items to help raise awareness about how people contribute to pollution. Those items included:

- Letters to stakeholders, including businesses, legislators, and environmental organizations (including National Resources Defense Council and Illinois Department of Agriculture) about contaminates in the waterways and the importance of water quality standard improvements.

- Fliers to distribute to the public, as well as family and friends about the issue of contaminants and how they can make a difference in their community.

- Posters in local businesses and churches with the message “Stop Pollution in our Water: be green, stop pollution, and save our Earth.” 

- School-wide surveys to determine the pollution tolerance index rating for various aquatic species.

 - E-mail messages to editors at Southtown Star newspaper and Treehugger.com requesting them to publish their classroom project.

The final display at the summit included information about how personal care products (PCPs) can be harmful in waterways, as well as additional steps that people can take to help solve this problem. Students displayed sample PCPs that are often found in aquatic ecosystems in the hopes of raising awareness about contaminants in water.

Bennett Elementary
Ms. Millner's students created a poster display, “Don’t Trash it! Bag It!” They had researched disposal methods for medications, hair care products, and cellphones.

The students educated their fellow classmates about proper disposal methods and passed out literature to hundreds of students to take home to their families. The handouts included information about using either coffee grounds or kitty litter to dispose of the unwanted medicine in the trash, or bringing these pharmaceuticals to a medicine collection site or a community collection event. They also conveyed the message that it's better to use up hair care products instead of throwing them away. The students cited earth911.com as a useful website for information about how to properly dispose of personal care products.

Students commented that "this project helped their community because people really need to know how hair care products get into our waterways and can endanger aquatic species," and “I’m doing a big part in the community. People should wake up to it so that our environment can be more pure.”

Robert A. Black Magnet School
Ms. McNeal's after-school Science Club students got the word out about proper disposal of PPCPs by writing and performing a rap song that they shared with their community.

In addition, they developed a flier about how to help dispose of medications including the location of the nearest police station collection box.

All of the students did a terrific job of finding out about these issues and coming up with ways to share that information with their community. Congratulations to the students, teachers, and the Earth Force program on making the event such a success.

This “Undo the Chemical Brew” education project is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Check out the latest information by visiting www.unwantedmeds.org.


Grand Calumet and Roxana Marsh cleanup a celebration for all ages

In northwest Indiana, life may just be a little more hopeful than it used to be. The Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA) project to remove contaminated sediment from portions of the Grand Calumet River and adjacent Roxana Marsh is done. Unlike before the cleanup, these waterways will now likely attract birds, aquatic life, and people. 

“This river was lifeless,” said Cameron Davis, senior advisor on the Great Lakes to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “Today, because of this effort, you can see the Grand Cal working and fighting to come back to life, and with it, the community.”

A celebration and press event earlier this week to mark this moment brought together the many players and partners involved in the process. And, thanks to work done by Caitie McCoy, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) social scientist, local school children capped off their semester-long learning experience about the restoration project by planting native seedlings along the marsh’s shores.

 “Legacy Act projects provide opportunities for residents to get involved in the river restoration process and learn about local water issues,” said McCoy. “As the Grand Cal project moved forward we have been ensuring that this includes local students too.”

McCoy and Nishaat Yunus, a fellow in the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO), worked closely with students in two northwest Indiana schools, engaging them in hands-on water monitoring activities and other learning opportunities.
At the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology they accompanied about 80 9th grade students from Amanda Miracle's science classes on a field trip to the river. Students took water samples to monitor water quality in restored sites--the results were shared with EPA and GLLA project partners. The students have gone back to the river to view progress on the restoration project. They have also learned data analysis, data reporting, and used data to make project-level decisions.
At the East Chicago Lighthouse Charter School, about 50 4th grade students from Andrea Bock's science classes grew native plants, provided by EPA. These plants were brought to Roxana Marsh to put in the ground as part of the celebration. McCoy and Yunus engaged students in key concepts associated with habitats and restoration projects. The children designed their own Roxana Marsh habitat by constructing a colorful classroom mural.
McCoy is working with IISG’s education teamRobinGoettel and Terri Hallesyto package the classroom programming developed through these efforts, so it will be ready to apply at other GLLA sites, hopefully to work in conjunction with Sea Grant programs in other states. 

Altogether, more than 575,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment were removed from 2.5 miles of the Roxana Marsh and Grand Calumet River. The project’s $56 million costs were shared by U.S. EPA and the state of Indiana. But there are many players in this project—EPA GLNPO, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources cooperated in the cleanup.

At the project celebration, Rep. Pete Vislosky commented on the restoration project. “What we used to call an industrial ditch—for 100 years—will be a grand river and a tremendous asset for all of us and our nation.”


In the news: U.S. EPA forms advisory board on Great Lakes issues

Late last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection agency announced the formation of an advisory board that would assist Federal agencies in restoring, preserving, and protecting the Great Lakes. 

From the EPA’s announcement: 
“The new board, the federal government’s first advisory committee on Great Lakes issues, will provide advice and recommendations to EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in her capacity as federal Interagency Task Force chair. EPA will consider candidates from a broad range of interests including environmental groups, businesses, agricultural groups, funders/foundations, environmental justice groups, youth groups, academia and state, local and tribal representatives as needed. Nominees will be solicited through a second Federal Register notice in the coming weeks. EPA anticipates that board will be established this summer.”
Read the complete news release and learn more about the goals for the advisory board here.


Lake Zurich water resources planning report now available

The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) all collaborated on a recently released report, “Recommendations for Integrated Water Resources Planning in Lake Zurich.”

The report combines study and information of a wide range of factors in order to provide appropriate recommendations for planning the community’s use of water. 

From the Metropolitan Planning Council’s website: 

This report is the culmination of one year of cooperative work, from March 2011 through March 2012, between the Village of Lake Zurich and a project team led by Metropolitan Planning Council in partnership with the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Through MPC’s Community Building Initiative, the team also convened a 13-member task force consisting of volunteer members with expertise in ecology, economics, engineering, law, planning, and utility management, to assist and advise the project team.”

The report not only provides information to water planners and local officials in Lake Zurich, but can be a model for other communities, laying out a variety of factors to consider and ways to meet the needs of customers while planning for the future. 

The complete report is available for download at the link above.


Water infrastructure workshop scheduled for June 18 & 19

The McHenry County Department of Planning and Development is hosting a training workshop on June 18 and 19 for utilities. Specifically, the workshop will provide guidance and information to those utilities with limited experience in developing water infrastructure projects. 

Led by Illinois Rural Community Assistance Program (RCAP) in partnership with regional agencies including IISG, the workshop will provide information on project planning, design, and construction, as well as an introduction to asset management.

Sessions are scheduled from 8:30 to 3:00 each of the days, and take place in the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock, IL. Visit the workshop website for further details, including the link to register.


Sheboygan River cleanup pamphlet offers answers and information

IISG’s Caitie McCoy has been heavily involved in the Sheboygan River AOC project, helping to provide information to the community and to all of the agencies and individuals involved in the project.

The cleanup and remediation of the area is well underway, and a new publication answers the most common and important questions that community members have had about the project. 

Available now for download, the pamphlet “A Cleaner, Deeper River Coming Soon!” addresses questions ranging from specific areas that will be dredged, disposal of the polluted materials that are removed, and positive impacts for wildlife and the community once the project is complete. 

You can learn more about the work in Sheboygan on the project website.


Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful medicine collection event this weekend

Our own Laura Kammin will be visiting a medicine collection event in Northern Illinois this Saturday. Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful is hosting the event June 9 at the Machesney Park Mall, just north of Rockford, Illinois, and the collection runs from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant helped Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful start their single-day medicine collection events in June 2008. Since then, the program has kept more than 12,740 pounds of unused medicine out of waterways and out of the hands of kids.

Visit Laura’s unwanted meds blog post about the event for further information about drop-off locations in nearby areas for this weekend’s event.


Unwanted medicine collections scheduled for downstate Illinois

The Illinois EPA has scheduled a series of collection events to properly dispose of unwanted medicines and other household hazardous wastes. 

Expired prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and personal care products like shampoo and soaps can all make their way into water supplies, contaminating drinking water and having detrimental effects on the environment. Disposal events like these provide a safe way for people to keep medicines from contaminating the environment, as well as keeping them away from children and pets. 

The Illinois EPA’s press release has the details and schedule for these upcoming events throughout the year. Households in the immediate Lake Michigan area and surrounding areas have access to collection locations in four areas, and you can find information about collection locations at our Unwanted Meds website.


Great Lakes Pharmaceutical Stewardship Summit this weekend

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Laura Kammin will be one of the speakers attending this weekend’s Great Lakes Pharmaceutical Stewardship Summit in Chicago. 

The event is scheduled for June 7-8, and will offer experts, policymakers, and stakeholders an opportunity to discuss the creation of a regional program for collecting and disposing of unwanted medicines

Developing a regional program has the potential to offer a significant amount of protection for Lake Michigan and the millions of people who rely on the lake for their drinking water. 

More information about the summit, including registration info, can be found on the Product Stewardship Institute’s website.


In the news: Canada pledges funds in the fight against Asian carp

The Canadian government has pledged a significant amount of money to help prevent Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes. 

From The Windsor Star: 
“Part of the new Canadian initiative also involves working closely with U.S. officials to not only deal with any sign of carp in the Great Lakes but to also intercept the cross-border transport of live Asian carp - something that's already been a problem at the Detroit-Windsor border.

For both Canada and the U.S., the worst-case scenario would see the destructive carp dominating fresh water lakes and rivers.”
Read more about this commitment and the cooperative effort to prevent the invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes here.


Keeping Lake Michigan safe for everyone this summer

Ensuring safety for visitors to Lake Michigan involves several factors, many departments and people, and a terrific amount of work. And still, unless good, accurate information reaches visitors and people who need it, potential problems can’t be avoided. 

One such concern each summer season is the presence of rip currents – a strong flow of water under the surface that carries away from the shore. Each year, swimmers and surfers in all major bodies of water can be endangered by the presence of these currents. That is why developing a more accurate and immediate way of warning beachgoers about rip currents is incredibly important, and why the National Weather Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, life guards at several beaches, and other organizations are partnering to develop and share information about rip currents. 

From the Northwest Indiana Times: 
“…the National Weather Service's Chicago office in Romeoville, Ill., and the Northern Indiana office teamed up with beach operators to enhance predicting and warning of rip currents along Lake Michigan's beaches in an effort to reduce drowning deaths.

In addition to modeling to predict rip currents, forecasters now have the help of lifeguards at beaches at Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Washington Park in Michigan City, Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Mich., and Silver Beach County Park in St. Joseph, Mich. The lifeguards report water conditions twice daily and can see the rip currents in the water from their guard stands.”
Read the complete article here, and find information about rip currents and beach conditions at the Lake Michigan Recreational Beach Forecast from NOAA. And most importantly, stay safe and have fun this summer at all of the Great Lakes.