Archive: Articles

August 25, 2014

Video: Potential Coal Ash Spill on Illinois’ only National Scenic River?

The Dynegy Vermilion coal-fired power plant closed in 2011, leaving behind three large ash pits containing millions of gallons of coal combustion waste laced with toxic heavy metals and carcinogens, the result of years of burning coal. All three pits are located in the floodplain; two of the pits are unlined and actively leaching into underlying groundwater.

While state and federal agencies weigh new rules and regulations for the closure of coal ash ponds, Vermilion County residents and local experts raise their concerns about the possibility of a disaster similar to those that occurred in Tennessee and North Carolina, where coal ash pits burst, sending tons of toxic sludge downstream.

Watch the new video from Eco-Justice Collaborative:

Waiting for Disaster – Coal Ash on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River from Eco-Justice Collaborative on Vimeo.


Sign this petition to urge local, state and regional decision makers to support complete closure and cleanup of these ash pits to preserve the health of the Middle Fork River and the communities that depend on it for future generations.

August 8, 2014

From Toledo to the Gulf, Inaction Leaves Water Polluted

Algae 1

Photo: Ohio Wetlands Association

Just days after half a million Toledo residents were advised their water was too toxic to drink or bathe in (New York Times story), scientists released the annual measurement of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, and the findings are grim (CNN Dead Zone story).

This year’s Dead Zone is estimated at 5,000 square miles—an area as big as the state of Connecticut, and three times larger than the 2015 goal established by a task force created to shrink the Dead Zone.

The crisis affecting water in Toledo, the Gulf of Mexico, and across the nation is the same: nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from big farms and sewage treatment plants.

Fox River. Photo: Northern Illinois Paddlers

Fox River. Photo: Northern Illinois Paddlers

In lakes and rivers, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution fuels the growth of stinking mats of algae that foul our waterways and beaches, and deprive the water of oxygen needed to support life. Algae can also contain toxins like the microcystin that poisoned Toledo’s drinking water and other toxins that have killed fish, livestock and pets.

Voluntary initiatives to tackle this national problem have failed. The failure of states and the feds to regulate this pollution has left all of us at risk. Prairie Rivers Network and our partners in the Mississippi River Collaborative petitioned US EPA for pollution limits in 2008, and then sued the agency in 2012 when it failed to address the problem. But even an EPA fix would not be enough.

Photo: American Canoe Association

Photo: American Canoe Association

Much of the increase in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in recent years is coming from big farms that, thus far, have escaped regulation.

The Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations have used money and lobbying power to ensure that the pollution from agriculture is exempt from many of the laws that protect our water. Yet Illinois could act to hold polluting farms accountable.  It’s time to stop asking politely for polluters to do the right thing. We need rules that require everyone to keep pollution out of our water.

August 6, 2014

Prairie River Notes — Summer 2014 Newsletter

Summer 2014 newsletter_Page_1Read Prairie Rivers Network’s Summer 2014 newsletter, featuring articles on:

  • Support Clean Water – Tell U.S. EPA you support the “Waters of the U.S. Rule”
  • Sunrise Coal – Not Buying It
  • Run for Your Rivers Raises $8,000
  • A Rural Paradise Lost
  • Prairie Rivers Network Annual Dinner – October 10th
  • Nominate Your River Superhero
  • Crossword Puzzle
August 5, 2014

Illinois Groups Call on Rep. John Shimkus to Address Failing Coal Ash Pits

CHAMPAIGN, IL – Today 18 environmental organizations and community groups representing hundreds of citizens in Illinois sent a letter to U.S. Representative John Shimkus urging the congressman to address failing coal ash pits in the state.

The letter comes six months after an impoundment failure at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant in North Carolina unleashed 140 thousand tons of coal ash and wastewater, devastating the river system and communities downstream. The toxic coal ash contaminated 70 miles of the Dan River, and although Duke Energy deemed cleanup “complete,” nearly 94 percent of the waste still remains in the river.

Coal ash is a dangerous waste product of burning coal at power plants which contains arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury, and a range of harmful heavy metals and hazardous pollutants. When these pollutants enter drinking water, rivers, and streams, they harm human health, aquatic life, and the communities that depend on these water systems.

Illinois is home to 24 coal-fired power plants, many of which were built adjacent to rivers or over groundwater aquifers in order to meet their enormous water needs. As a result, 91 coal ash disposal ponds were built in places that are unsuitable and dangerous for the disposal of toxic waste. Fifty-six ash ponds were built over groundwater recharge areas, 62 over shallow aquifers, and 9 were constructed over wetlands.


Coal Ash Pits on the Middle Fork

While many of these coal ash pits present threats of slow but inevitable discharge into water systems, several hold the potential for catastrophic failure. For example, the retired Dynegy Vermilion Power Station – in Rep. Shimkus’ district – hosts three waste dumps in the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. Two of the pits were built without liners and have begun to contaminate adjacent groundwater. The banks of the impoundment are also vulnerable to flooding and erosion of the river, threatening to unleash 3 million cubic yards of coal ash downstream.

The Dynegy Vermilion site is described in a recent report on the company’s pollution sites across the state.

The letter, sent by environmental organizations and community groups across Illinois, urges Rep. Shimkus to hold a hearing within the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy to ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing everything possible to effectively address the threat of coal ash to American communities nationwide.

“We believe it is your responsibility to ensure that your constituents and the nation are safe from preventable coal ash disasters,” the groups wrote in the letter, and to hear “from affected communities how these dangerous ponds harm their health, environment and the economic well-being.”

Read a copy of the letter here.

August 4, 2014

Get your “I ♥ Clean Water” t-shirt

We all ♥ Clean Water!

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Proclaim your love for clean water and LOOK GOOD by wearing the new Prairie Rivers Network t-shirt!

Shirt choices:

Men’s or unisex - dark grey shirt with crew neck

Women’s - chocolate shirt with v-neck (fitted, runs slightly small)

Sizes for both men’s and women’s shirts – S  M  L  XL  XXL

Make a donation of $10 or more to Prairie Rivers Network to protect clean water and we’ll send you a free shirt. Just tell us what kind (men’s/unisex or women’s) and the size.

         t shirt front cropped final      I heart clean water t-shirt logo close up                t shirt back cropped final


We’re so happy and proud of the shirt design which was donated by Joy Schmoll from Just Say Joy.

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