April 29, 2006

Mercury Rising

Today's Chicago Tribune has an excellent piece by Michael Hawthorne that shows that mercury emissions from Illinois coal plants continue to increase.

Most industries have cleaned up their act at least somewhat since the passage of the Clean Air Act, some dramatically. This latest trend shows that the coal power industry won't until Illinois' cleanup proposal is finalized.

Pollution Control Board hearings on the cleanup plan begin May 8th in Chicago.

April 22, 2006

Tackling Another Source of Mercury

Governor Blagojevich marked Earth Day today by signing legislation to require the recycling of car parts that contain mercury before the cars are scrapped. The legislation will go a long way toward eliminating the second largest source of mercury pollution in Illinois. Currently, old car parts are either landfilled or melted down for recycling, and if the mercury-containing parts aren't taken out, the mercury goes up in smoke when the metal is melted, or can leach from a landfill into groundwater.

Congratulations to State Rep. Karen May, who made this her top priority for three legislative sessions, and the Illinois Environmental Council, which led the environmental community's efforts to pass the legislation.

April 21, 2006

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday is Earth Day, and Illinois Sierra Club volunteers are marking the occasion at with river cleanups, habitat restoration projects, and public education events around the state. All the events are open to the public.

Earth Day should not be a day to be depressed about all the threats and problems facing our environment. It should be a time to celebrate what each of us can do, in our own way, to make our community and our world a cleaner, healthier place to live. Sierra Club invites anyone with a couple hours to spare this week to join us as we get our hands dirty to make Illinois just a little cleaner and greener.

The list of local projects includes:

Chicago - Montrose Beach Clean Up. 9:30 - Noon
Volunteers roll up their sleeves and pick up all the trash from the beach and the water's edge, cataloging the rubbish as they go as part of a survey of the lake's flotsam and jetsam. Some unbelievable items wash up on the beach and enough old clothes, sandals and barrettes are collected to outfit a family of five!

Meet at the Montrose Beach beach house (the large white building located on the far east side of the beach). It's a great way to get out, enjoy the lakefront, and do something to help the lake. If you can, please bring with you some rubber or plastic gloves, some garbage bags, a pen, and some friends! We will also have supplies on hand.

Chicago (NW Side) - LaBagh Woods Stewardship Day & Bird Walk - 9 am –Noon (7AM Bird Walk)
A preliminary hike will give you the lay of the land of this interesting, hilly preserve and then we’ll charge right into the clean-up. Be sure to bring gloves (cloth work gloves or waterproof rubber gloves work well), dress for the weather and wear boots to cope with muddy trails. Supplies and work tools will be provided. Located along the North Branch of the Chicago River, which is used as a migration corridor by many species of north-bound birds, LaBagh Woods is well-known as a birding hot spot in the spring. Dress for the weather including boots as conditions may be muddy. Contact Christine Williamson (evenings) at birdchris@ aol.com or 773/935-8439.

Aurora - Annual Fox River Cleanup - 9 a.m. till noon
Sierra Club’s Valley of the Fox Group Water Sentinels invites you to join clean-up efforts along the bank of the Fox River in downtown Aurora, the site of the recently removed North Avenue Dam. This clean-up will help prepare the site for planting later in the season of erosion control plants. Gloves, bags, water and snacks provided. Dress for the weather. Contact Fran Caffee at (630) 859-1687.

Batavia Environmental Fair, Government Center. 10 am till 4 pm
Sierra Club will have information table and will be giving away 100 free compact fluorescent lighbulbs with attached information about energy savings and how to recycle old bulbs. Also try the "Energy Bike" built by local Sierra Club activist Jon Wesenberg. Contact Ron and MaryAnne Gilkerson 630-879-8756

Barrington - Spring Creek Preserve Stewardship Day & Family Picnic - 10 am till 2 pm.
This is a huge, family-friendly event for the Sierra Club and its event co-sponsors. We need people to help with the restoration crew, food setup, tours of the area, and herbicide application (must be licensed). We will cut buckthorn and sow wildflower and native grass seed from 10:00-12:30. From 12:30-2:00 lunch will be provided, guest speakers will talk, and tours of the area will be conducted.

Alton - City Wide Litter Clean-Up Event_9 am till Noon
Meet at one of these registration sites for FREE DONUTS & COFFEE:
Midtown Restaurant - Central @ 7th St.,
St. Peter's Hardware - State St. @ Mather St.
Main Street Methodist Church - Main St. @ Brown St.
Lowe's - Parking Lot off of Homer Adam's Parkway & Buckmaster Ln.
For more info, or to adopt a block, call: (618) 465-3026

Peoria - Environmental Film Festival at the Apollo Theatre, Peoria, 7-9 pm both days.
Peoria Heights - Tabling event at Forest Park Nature Center

April 23 – Peoria - Tabling event at Gateway building
April 24 - Peoria - Tabling at Clean Water Celebration
April 29 - Springfield - Earth Awareness Fair 10 am - 2 pm
Join Sierra Club at the Earth Awareness Fair on April 29th in the Expo Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. This year's event will have lots of activities and games for all ages. There will also be guest speakers, prizes, food and more!
May 3 – Aurora - Math and Science Academy Earthday event.

More details, including directions to many sites, are available at http://illinois.sierraclub.org/events/index.html. Hope to see you out there!

April 11, 2006

Risky Fishing

Spring is finally here, and people across Illinois are thinking of getting outside. Certainly one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is fishing - a perfect excuse to spend a morning or an afternoon on a lake or a riverbank with your family, friends, or in the quiet of nature. It's not surprising that there are 700,000 fishing licenses issued each year in Illinois.

Unfortunately, those anglers may be getting more than just a relaxing day on the water when they fish Illinois. If they are bringing their catch home for dinner, they may be putting their family's health at risk by connecting dirty coal plant smokestacks to their kids' nervous systems.

Midlothian Reservoir in Cook County's Forest Preserves is a "hotspot" for mercury pollution, carrying a special warning for women of child-bearing age.

A new report issued today by Illinois Public Interest Research Group examines two decades of fish tissue sampling data in Illinois and reports that the health threat posed by mercury-contaminated fish is a statewide phenomenon. Waters as diverse as Lake Michigan, a city park lagoon, the Rock River, Kinkaid Lake, or suburban streams like the DuPage River all are home to fish that carry dangerous amounts of mercury.

According to Illinois EPA, 70% of Illinois' mercury pollution comes from coal-burning power plants. Other states that have acted to cut their mercury emissions have seen mercury levels in fish drop substantially in less than a decade.

Fishing is still a great way to spend a beautiful spring day. Let's make sure it's not a health risk by cleaning up our coal plants.

Illinois EPA estimates that this coal plant in Romeoville put out 459 pounds of mercury pollution in 2004.

April 06, 2006

Waukegan Mayor Supports Mercury Cleanup

This week Waukegan Mayor Richard Hyde joined the growing list of supporters of Gov. Blagojevich's mercury cleanup plan. Waukegan is home to a coal plant owned by Midwest Generation that puts out over 300 pounds of mercury every year, right on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Coverage is here and here.