July 24, 2014

THANK YOU for protecting the Mahomet Aquifer

Your voice is being heard. THANK YOU to everyone who has been attending meetings to protect the Mahomet Aquifer from toxic pollution, including hazardous wastes dumped at the Clinton Landfill.

Mahomet Aquifer boundary map, courtesy of the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium

Mahomet Aquifer boundary map, courtesy of the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium

Peoria AREA Disposal, owner of the Clinton Landfill, already has a permit to accept MGP (manufactured gas plant) waste, and has applied for a permit to accept PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Clinton Landfill is located above the Mahomet Aquifer, so these toxic wastes could contaminate the main drinking water source of Central Illinois. For a good overview of the Clinton Landfill saga, please see this timeline and story by the News-Gazette (PDF).

Governor Quinn has heard your voice. He recently urged the Illinois EPA to deny the PCB permit for Peoria AREA Disposal.

Other groups are also taking action to protect Central Illinois’ most important source of drinking water. On July 12, the City of Champaign held a Mahomet Aquifer Summit. In May, U.S. EPA held public hearings and a comment period considering the designation of the Mahomet Aquifer as a sole-source aquifer. Sole-source designation will provide more protection from federally-funded projects that could contaminate the aquifer, but will not affect the PCB or MGP projects of the Clinton Landfill as these are not federally-funded.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers is calling for a boycott of AREA Disposal. You can also take action with the Mahomet Aquifer Protection Alliance and the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium. Thank you for your concern for Central Illinois’ water!

I heart clean water from the Mahomet Aquifer cropped

July 23, 2014

New Report: Risks and Costs of Dynegy’s Coal-Fired Power Plants on Illinois Communities

Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network Highlight Path for Communities to Transition Away from Risky Coal

PEORIA - Today, the Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance (CIHCA), Prairie Rivers Network and the Sierra Club released a report highlighting the risk posed by Dynegy’s coal-fired power plants on communities across Illinois.

The report is the first comprehensive collection of Dynegy’s environmental and public health impacts state-wide.  The report chronicles Dynegy’s history of risky behavior, the health costs associated with pollution from Dynegy’s aging coal plants, cleanup risks and costs that towns could face if a coal ash disaster occurs at a Dynegy coal ash pit, and Dynegy’s troubled history with labor and town relations. The report goes on to outline the importance of building responsible transition plans for Illinois communities that have been saddled with decades of coal pollution and are ready to build local clean energy economies.

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“This report clearly demonstrates that Dynegy has shifted the burden of its heavily polluting business to the communities surrounding its plants, placing the health costs of pollution, and the potentially devastating costs of coal ash disaster squarely on those living nearby.” said Kady McFadden, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign in Illinois. “Illinois has no time to waste demanding a transition away from coal, and requiring a smart transition plan in communities that have been calling for clean energy and cleaner air for years.”

The report implicates Dynegy in devastating past, present, and future pollution impacts.  The company is responsible for the continuing coal ash damage at the Vermilion plant along the Vermilion River.  The company’s ED Edwards plant is implicated in causing federally designated unsafe air quality in Peoria, and several additional plants across the state threaten local air quality. Many plants also dump coal ash directly into the Illinois River, putting arsenic, mercury, and lead directly into one of Illinois’ most important drinking water and recreational sources. The report contains maps demonstrating the extent of Dyengy’s air and water pollution state-wide.

“I want to make my community a safe place for my children to grow up and thrive, and dangerous pollution from Dynegy’s coal plant takes that power away from me as a parent,” said Robin Garlish, a mother from Pekin who lives near Dynegy’s E.D. Edwards coal plant and member of the CIHCA. “This report portrays the terrifying percentage of our state that is blanketed by pollution from Dynegy’s coal plants. It is time to build a plan to move away from dangerous coal pollution in Illinois, and we’re going to push Dynegy to build that plan with all community stakeholders present.”

The report also reveals the long-known and pervasive coal ash problems at Dynegy’s coal plants.  The Illinois River is hit hard by Dynegy’s Duck Creek, E.D. Edwards, Havana, and Hennepin plants, which all discharge polluted water to the river at a rate of more than 1,043 million gallons daily. Dynegy’s history with coal ash contamination at its retired Vermillion coal plant in central Illinois raises a red flag for other communities where Dynegy is dumping coal ash into aging coal ash pits.

“So many of Dynegy’s coal ash pits are already leaking and are disaster areas waiting to happen,” said Carrie Otto, Organizer with Prairie Rivers Network. “Protecting clean water is vital, and transitioning away from coal is the simplest way we can avoid producing the dangerous waste that Dynegy dumps near our rivers.”

Beyond highlighting risks, the report outlines a three step checklist for local decision makers to protect their communities from Dynegy’s dangerous track record: advocate for public health and a healthy environment, support clean energy, and protect the community workforce.

View Full Report Here



July 17, 2014

Vermilion County passes resolutions on coal ash

As the Illinois Pollution Control Board considers statewide rules to regulate coal ash, Vermilion County groups have stepped up to encourage stronger rules at the state level and additional consideration for closure of ash pits at the Dynegy Vermilion facility.

The Dynegy Vermilion power station currently stores coal ash – the toxic byproduct of coal combustion – in three pits located along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. All three pits are located in the floodplain; two of the pits are unlined and actively leaching into underlying groundwater.


Structural controls to protect the river from ash pits have failed. 

Rules before the Illinois Pollution Control Board, as currently proposed, do not provide sufficient protection of water resources threatened by coal ash disposal. They are lacking in their protection of surface waters from contamination, provisions for public participation, and their designation of financial responsibility.

Resolutions passed by the Vermilion County Board, Soil & Water Conservation District, Vermilion County Conservation District, and Vermilion County Conservation Foundation have not only called on the Illinois Pollution Control Board to address these shortcomings, but have called on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to address these issues as they apply to the Dynegy Vermilion closure plan.

Dynegy Midwest Generation, L.L.C. has proposed leaving the coal ash in place and simply capping the pits. This is a risky proposal. Groundwater contamination, seepage to the river, and direct discharges of coal ash decant and leachate will continue in perpetuity to the river system if the ash is not removed from the floodplain and placed in an engineered lined dry waste management unit.

Although local government groups do not have the power to determine coal ash rules, Vermilion County has shown how representatives can meaningfully engage in the rulemaking and regulatory processes occurring at the state level – speaking up on behalf of the communities and local resources that stand to be damaged by a coal ash breach.

In addition to the resolutions, over 500 petition signatures have been collected in support of complete removal of the coal ash. Add your name and signify your support for protecting surface and groundwater, as well as urging elected leaders to take action to prevent a tragedy like the coal ash spill in North Carolina from happening in Vermilion County. 

June 25, 2014

Local Communities Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Starved Rock State Park and local communities threatened by Illinois sand rush

The rush for sand to fuel fracking is on, and Illinois has a lot of it. In the fracking process, silica sand is mixed with chemicals and injected underground to break apart rocks and unleash trapped oil and gas. Mississippi Sand, LLC wants to mine vast quantities of sand just outside Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County.

A sand mine may sound harmless, but sand mining can pollute local streams, destroy wetlands, damage air quality, create horrible dust problems, and be extremely noisy.

IL River Sand Mine

LaSalle County Sand Mine

Since we learned of Mississippi Sand’s proposal, Prairie Rivers Network and our partners have been working with residents to protect the park and adjacent lands from the harms of sand mining. Despite repeat efforts to work with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Environmental Protection Agency to better protect the park, both agencies granted Mississippi Sand, LLC permits that threaten the health of nearby streams and wetlands as well as clean air and tranquility in the park and surrounding communities.

Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, and Openlands sued IDNR over the mining permit, but our case was dismissed when the Sangamon County judge ruled our groups did not have a legal right to challenge IDNR’s bad decision. We have appealed the judge’s dismissal to a higher court.

While opposing the permits, we urged the county to take action to protect its lands. A LaSalle County moratorium on new sand mines was a welcome victory, but mining companies are scrambling to annex their land into local villages in order to avoid the moratorium. This leaves county residents with no say over what happens on adjoining lands and in the unlucky position of choosing between selling their lands to mining interests, or being surrounded by massive sand mines. See this Chicago Tribune article about how frac sand mining is driving farmers off their land (PDF).

We have also been working with LaSalle County to improve the county’s Comprehensive Plan (link takes a minute to load) in order to protect ecologically significant land and water from unfettered mining and development. While the County has been very receptive to our suggestions, directly incorporating many of them into the update, progress will be bittersweet. Should the county board vote to update the plan next month, the moratorium on new mining will be lifted.

We know the economies of many Illinois communities could use a boost. Yet LaSalle County’s economy has for many years, been fueled by tourism. Sand mining near Starved Rock State Park threatens this economic driver. We needn’t destroy our most treasured places for short term gains. If we’re going to mine sand, let’s not do it in our most ecologically sensitive places.

June 19, 2014

Show Your Support for Clean Water

Tell U.S. EPA you support the Waters of the U.S. Rule

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There’s a new rule that’s good for clean water and it’s under attack.

US EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers want to do the right thing and clarify Clean Water Act protections for some of our smallest yet most important streams and wetlands.

These waters are at risk of pollution and destruction and in need of legal protection.

Streams and wetlands filter pollutants, reduce flooding, provide drinking water for millions of people, and habitat for fish and wildlife.

There is strong opposition from those who want to continue using our waters as dumping grounds. Regretfully many polluters have the ears of Congress and are working hard to defeat the rule.

Let’s stop them.

Click HERE (and scroll to bottom of webpage) to tell U.S. EPA you support the Waters of the U.S. Rule.

Thank you!

June 16, 2014

Prairie Rivers Network Releases Documentary and Petition on Illinois Factory Farms

“From the very beginning of the hog facility, we started experiencing, there is no other word to describe it but gut-wrenching odors that could just wake you up out of a dead sleep.”  

This line kicks off our new documentary on the harmful impacts that Illinois factory farms can have on rural communities. The people we interviewed wanted to share their stories with you because they have had enough. Their quality of life has suffered due to industrial-scale livestock production.

We produced the documentary because we want the general public to understand that factory farms can impose great costs upon neighbors. But we don’t want to just inform you of this injustice, we also want you to take action. WE NEED YOUR HELP to change the law so neighbors and the environment are better protected from factory farms.

As consumers of meat, eggs, and/or dairy products, we all have skin in this game. Most of the animal-based products we buy at grocery stores and restaurants come from factory farms. But we can demand a better food production system. SIGN OUR PETITION to state legislators and Governor Quinn!

Please watch our documentary and then click on the link to our petition.  Thank you.