Archive: Articles

March 16, 2015

Round Up for Clean Water at Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana

Common Ground Produce

If you shop at Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana, please “round up” your purchases this month – the extra change will go a long way towards protecting our rivers and clean water!

When: The whole month of MARCH

Where: Common Ground Food Co-op, Lincoln Square, 300 Broadway, Suite 166, Urbana, IL

A big thank you to Common Ground for supporting local non-profits with their round up donation program!


March 12, 2015

EPA gives Mahomet Aquifer sole-source designation

Our main source of drinking water in Central Illinois is now better protected. The EPA gives Mahomet Aquifer sole-source designation. Well done to all leaders and citizens who helped achieve this.

Lee News Service Map of Mahomet Aquifer and Clinton Landfill

Lee News Service Map of Mahomet Aquifer and Clinton Landfill

March 4, 2015

Mahomet Aquifer Bills in Progress

Representative Ammons and Senator Bennett introduce bills to protect Mahomet Aquifer

Mahomet Aquifer Map, courtesy of the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium

Mahomet Aquifer Map, courtesy of the Mahomet Aquifer Consortium

We are excited that freshmen lawmakers Representative Carol Ammons and Senator Scott Bennett have introduced bills to protect the Mahomet Aquifer from pollution. Specifically, materials containing high levels of PCBs and manufactured gas plant waste would be prohibited in landfills located above the aquifer. The legislation is aimed at preventing Clinton Landfill from moving forward on its plans to accept these two toxic chemicals. The Mahomet Aquifer is an irreplaceable resource, providing drinking water to over 500,000 residents in 14 counties in east-central Illinois.

TAKE ACTION – check out the list of sponsors for House Bill 1326 and Senate Bill 1698.  If your legislators are not already sponsors, ask them to be by calling their district offices!

In related news, USEPA is still evaluating the petition to designate the Mahomet Aquifer as a sole source water supply. We are unclear why it is taking so long, but it appears the agency is going through the petition with a fine-tooth comb. Because of this delay, Rep. Ammons has also introduced a resolution that urges the USEPA to issue the designation; the Illinois legislature has not voted on the resolution yet.

January 30, 2015

A Big Buzz for Pollinators!

pollinator panel 4Over 150 people attended our public panel on pollinators, held January 22 in Champaign! We were thrilled by the turnout and the resounding public interest in helping our pollinator friends. Special thanks to our partners at the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District and University of Illinois Extension for helping make this event possible. We would also like to thank our guest panelists, who did an outstanding job describing the current status of pollinators and what the public can do to help them.

The most important take-home message from the panel is that pollinators need safe habitats and food to be healthy. In Illinois, pollinators are faced with a largely unfriendly, unpalatable environment dominated by corn, soybeans, turfgrass, and asphalt. Pollinators need flowering forbs, shrubs, and trees. Different pollinators have different needs, and just like people, pollinators benefit from a diverse diet. Therefore, plant diversity is key to creating good pollinator habitat.

Any landowner can help pollinators by adding flowering plants to their properties. Even a small flower bed can be a significant contribution. The more people who do something, the greater our collective impact! For ideas about what to plant, visit Extension’s website on pollinator pockets. Rain gardens can also be designed to attract pollinators; visit our rain garden page for more information!

Finally, if you missed the panel, you can watch it below – thanks, UPTV, for making this possible!

January 21, 2015

Victory! Grassroots Group Halts Coal Mine

caceivictoryphotoCanton-area residents celebrated yesterday after winning an eight-year battle to halt the proposed North Canton coal strip mine – successfully protecting Fulton County communities and their right to clean water. On January 16th Capital Resources Development Company, LLC asked the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (Illinois DNR) to withdraw its permit application for the mine, which has been challenged by the local community since 2007.

The strip mine, authorized twice by the Illinois DNR, would have polluted Canton Lake, endangering the drinking water supply for more than 20,000 local residents. Residents also cited a long list of other threats to local resources and quality of life posed by the mine that were inadequately addressed through the agency’s review process.

The hard-fought victory by the committed members and supporters of Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues is a testament to the power communities have when they stand together to assert their basic rights. The successful effort to block the strip mine will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration to those facing similar threats across the state.

Polluting a Public Water Supply

North CantonThe North Canton Strip Mine would have been the first strip mine in the state allowed to discharge pollution into a public water supply. While many would expect community resources like Canton Lake to be a top priority for water protection, the state-issued permit authorized the strip mine just over a mile upstream, compromising the drinking water for over half of Fulton County’s residents and placing an undue burden on the Canton water treatment plant and local tax payers.

An Irresponsible Operator

The mining company is an affiliate of Springfield Coal Company LLC, a notorious rogue operator that has racked up hundreds of violations at other sites for illegal and dangerous water pollution.

Over the course of just 8 years at the Industry Mine in Schuyler and McDonough counties, the owners of the mining company violated their water pollution permit over 600 times.

A Lengthy Legal Battle – Funded by Bake Sales

Permit No. 385 was originally issued in 2008. The appeal to this decision launched by local residents went through five years of review before an agency official finally handed down an order in 2013 denying the permit, stating that it failed to correctly identify and protect a branch of the Copperas Creek, a tributary to Canton Lake dismissed as “Ravine 6” by Capital Resources,  as an “intermittent stream.”

With the permit ostensibly “denied,” the community was surprised to learn soon after that Illinois DNR’s permitting staff interpreted the ruling as only denying the permit in part – asserting that the rest of the permit had been approved, but needed some revisions.

Illinois DNR went on to issue a revised mining permit in July 2013, in spite of flagrant violations at the company’s other mine sites – prompting another legal challenge by the community and Heart of Illinois Sierra Club group.

On the eve of a court hearing on this second permit challenge, and in the face of continued staunch local opposition, Capital Resources finally asked the agency to withdraw the permit application – ending the life of permit No. 385.

The operator never had the chance to mine the site, in part because they never received a water pollution permit from the Illinois EPA. Prairie Rivers Network partnered with the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club to challenge this permit, drawing on our experience with pollution violations at the parent company’s Industry Mine.

Because Canton area residents were unable to rely on state regulators to do their jobs, they were forced to hire expert witnesses and legal counsel, funded through bake sales and garage sales, to see that state mining laws were implemented properly.

Mine Permit System Concerns - Fixing the Problems

The fact that the Illinois DNR authorized a strip mine a mile upstream of a public water supply to a company with extensive ongoing pollution violations raises grave concerns about the cozy relationship between state regulators and the coal industry.

Moving forward, Prairie Rivers Network will continue to work alongside our partners in the call for transparency and accountability for the coal mining industry and state mining regulators. With clearer definitions for streams and wetlands that agency staff adhere to, communities facing the impacts of coal extraction can expect higher protections for their watersheds.

Years of violations at Springfield Coal Company mines also highlight the need for stronger enforcement practices. Permit applications from repeated bad actors (or close corporate “affiliates”) should not be granted or renewed – doing so presents a clear danger to the surrounding community’s health and miners’ safety.

Agencies granting permits also have the opportunity to go to greater lengths to consider the impacts of mining on the local land and hydrology – North Canton presenting a clear example with the risks to a public water supply.

Finally, the engaged citizens of Fulton County illustrate the need for a permitting process that is accessible to local residents. Making documents searchable and available allows residents with local knowledge to protect their land and water (in this case, identifying a branch of the Copperas Creek as more than a “ravine”).

Canton Lake Protected


There is no doubt that the North Canton permit should have received more scrutiny from the very beginning. Instead, Canton residents had to wage an eight-year battle to prove to the state that coal mines don’t belong next to drinking water supplies.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, an important piece of Fulton County has been successfully protected for fishing, hiking, boating, and the provision of safe drinking water for years to come.

January 21, 2015

Join the #4CleanWater Campaign!

4cleanwater#4cleanwater is a social media campaign that gives voice to those who love clean water and know we need laws to protect it.

Over the next several months, supporters of EPA’s clean water rule will use the hashtag #4cleanwater to tell decision makers that clean water is essential to our lives and to our economy. The campaign is designed to stop Congress from interfering with the passage of a new EPA rule that ensures small streams are legally protected under the Clean Water Act. Small streams feed larger river systems and are essential for healthy rivers.

Show your support for clean water by using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or your favorite social media platform. Tell your representatives in US Congress why you are #4cleanwater and ask them to stand up for the clean water protection rule.

Click HERE for instructions on joining the campaign.

Print out a #4cleanwater sign HERE.

We are #4cleanwater!

Click HERE for instructions on joining the campaign.