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May 27, 2015

Water advocates, Illinois businesses applaud release of EPA’s Clean Water Rule

For Immediate Release
May 27, 2015

Water advocates, Illinois businesses applaud release of EPA’s Clean Water Rule

ILLINOIS - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Clean Water Rule, providing Clean Water Act protections for many streams, wetlands, and other bodies of water that are critical to our health, our economy and our natural world. The rule can be viewed here -

The rule restores Clean Water Act safeguards for waterbodies that were historically protected under the Act. The streams and wetlands at issue – two million stream miles and 20 million wetland acres – provide critical wildlife habitat, flood control, and drinking water to 117 million Americans.

Streams and wetlands are economic drivers. They play an important role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy, and manufacturing. They also provide drinking water for 1 in 3 people. The Clean Water Rule will help ensure businesses have reliable access to clean water.  Environmental advocacy groups and Illinois businesses praised the rule.

“A federal regulatory framework provides a level playing field to those businesses that operate responsibly, incorporating protection of this most precious resource into their business models. Allowing unregulated pollution of small streams and wetlands on the other hand, would incite a race to the bottom, with the costs borne by our rivers and streams, our communities, and our businesses,” said Kim Knowles, staff attorney, Prairie Rivers Network.

Leaving streams and wetlands unprotected would be devastating for American business. Business depends on clean water; it is critical for manufacturing, food production, and recreation.

“One of the most crucial things that we need as a society is rules to protect our most essential resources,” said Ken Myszka, owner and chef of Epiphany Farms in Bloomington, IL. “That’s why Epiphany Farms supports EPA’s Clean Water Rule.”

A 2014 poll conducted by the American Sustainable Business Council found that 80 percent of small business owners support federal rules protecting small streams, with 71 percent saying that clean water is crucial to support economic growth.

“We need the protection of the EPA and the Clean Water Act to ensure that the river where our customers recreate is clean and unpolluted,” said Tod Satterthwaite of Kickapoo Landing, an outdoor outfitter in Oakwood, IL.

“At Big Grove Tavern, we want to support our community’s economic health as well its literal health,” said Rebecca Kane of Big Grove Tavern, in Champaign, Illinois. “Clean lakes and streams ensure healthier food, which trickles down to healthier customers.”

The Clean Water Rule is supported by the latest peer-reviewed science, including more than 1200 pieces of scientific literature.

“Nobody has the right to pollute,” said Wes Jarrell, farmer and owner of Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in Urbana, Illinois. “If something leaves my property and goes downstream from me, that’s my responsibility. I’m supposed to stop that. Clean water is absolutely essential to the success of our business.”

For more on why American businesses support the Clean Water Rule, watch our video:


Kim Knowles, Prairie Rivers Network, kknowles@prairierivers.org217-344-2371 ext. 209

May 26, 2015

Prairie Rivers-led conservation partnership yields success

The Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge

The Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge

When people come together, good things happen. Over the past year, with support from Illinois Clean Energy and Community Foundation, Prairie Rivers Network has convened several organizations who seek to restore and protect the rare and special habitats of the Illinois River system. While we continue to help identify conservation opportunities and priorities, our efforts have already led to success.

Our partners at The Wetlands Initiative recently acquired over 280 acres to expand the 3,000-acre Sue and Wes Dixon Wildlife Refuge. The acquisition will add to the internationally-recognized Refuge by protecting oak woodlands and restoring over 170 acres of agricultural land. We know that the quality of our water is closely tied to the health of the land, and this project represents a great example of diverse habitats from river to bluff.

Restoration at the site will start this fall, and we look forward to documenting the transformation that occurs on the land. We hope that this is the first of many impactful projects that result from improved coordination among conservation groups working along the Illinois River.

May 20, 2015

Clinton Landfill Now Eyeing Coal Combustion Waste

While it is great news that Clinton Landfill has agreed to not store federally-regulated levels of PCBs, the saga isn’t over yet. An article in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette quoted the landfill’s attorney as saying that the landfill is looking to get into the business of accepting coal combustion waste from power plants. Coal waste can include chemicals we don’t want in our water supply, such as heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, selenium, chromium and cadmium which can cause cancer and brain damage in humans and have proven to be harmful to fish and wildlife.

Unfortunately, the settlement agreement between DeWitt County and the landfill allows the landfill to accept “coal combustion residuals.” The landfill can also accept manufactured gas plant waste that does not exceed regulatory levels; this “MGP” waste is a product of a coal-to-gas conversion process. DeWitt County will allow a railroad spur to reach the landfill, allowing trainloads of waste to be brought in.

Prairie Rivers Network is further investigating the proposed location for coal ash disposal at the landfill, examining the design and monitoring requirements in place for containing the waste and protecting public drinking water.

While there have been some important victories. . . existing regulations are such that the landfill can still store toxic substances above a drinking water supply.”

Clinton Landfill. photo credit: Terry Hoffman

Clinton Landfill
photo credit: Terry Hoffman


The settlement agreement also contains a provision that says the Clinton Sanitary District may start accepting and treating the leachate from the landfill. If that indeed occurs, we will be monitoring to make sure the sanitary district is equipped to handle the leachate in addition to the municipal sewage it normally treats. The sanitary district discharges to a local creek, so it is essential that treatment be effective at all times.

What all this means is that everyone needs to be paying attention to what’s going on at Clinton Landfill. While there have been some important victories with the PCBs and the Sole Source Aquifer designation, existing regulations are such that the landfill can still store toxic substances above a drinking water supply.

May 8, 2015

Sidney train leak incident part of a growing and concerning national problem

The latest train incident causing a spill of petroleum products into an Illinois waterway happened in the small village of Sidney. Last Saturday, Sidney residents smelled diesel fuel and then saw it in the creek that drains into the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River in eastern Champaign County. The source was a Union Pacific train that leaked fuel as it passed through the area.

Fuel has passed the last boom on the creek that flows through Sidney before emptying into the Salt Fork.

Fuel has passed the last boom (in background) on the creek that flows through Sidney before emptying into the Salt Fork.

Cleanup is reportedly expected to take several weeks and may be complicated by the fact that the fuel spilled onto soil before reaching water. In addition, initial efforts by Environmental Restoration, LLC to contain the spill using booms placed in the creek resulted in inadequate containment, as the picture to the right shows. Residents are frustrated the cleanup didn’t happen more quickly and effectively. They continue to smell an odor and are unable to use and enjoy the creek. Fortunately there have been no reports of dead fish, but impacts on aquatic life may yet appear.

Prairie Rivers Network is concerned about the number of recent pollution events involving trains passing through Illinois. In March 2015, a BNSF oil train derailed near the Galena and Mississippi rivers in the northwest corner of the state. A barrier was constructed to keep rising river water away from oil-contaminated wetlands.  In 2009, a Canadian National train carrying ethanol derailed and was blamed for a subsequent fish kill in the Rock River. {Continue Reading »}

April 27, 2015

Run for Your Rivers Raises over $5,700 for Clean Water

KeithandGen-546e236c5c483 Rob QuinnSimon

Thank you to our 2015 Run for Your Rivers and Walk for Your Streams Team

Our team raised over $5,700 and ran/walked in the rain 167.8 miles in 33 hours, 8 minutes, and 6 seconds:

Zachary Barnaal 10K 1:04:34
David Bullock 10K 0:58:26
Bob Burger 5K 0:29:33
Som Dutta 10K 1:10:54
Don Greeley 1/2 marathon 2:30:58
Don Greeley 5K 0:56:00
Liz Greeley 5K 0:56:01
Dixie Jackson 5K 0:44:35
Gary Jackson 5K 0:45:37
Rob Kanter marathon 4:28:24
David Kay 5K 1:07:05
Marilyn Kay 5K 1:06:59
Lauren Logan 10K 1:11:49
Genevieve Long 1/2 marathon 2:00:12
Paul Noel 10K 0:49:13
Brian Nudelman 10K 1:30:10
Brian Nudelman 5K 0:44:27
Quinn Nudelman 5K 0:44:27
Simon Nudelman 5K 0:44:27
Vickie Nudelman 10K 1:30:10
Vickie Nudelman 5K 0:44:27
Marjet Oosterkamp 5K 0:50:09
Andrew Rehn 10K 0:56:58
Keith Schinkoeth 1/2 marathon 1:54:02
Keith Schinkoeth 5K 0:23:07
David Sherwood 10K 0:58:56
Case Sprenkle 10K 1:46:36




April 9, 2015

Congress Moving to Scrap Community Protections, Giving Polluters Free Pass on Coal Ash Dumping

Just three months (and only 42 working days) after EPA signed its first-ever coal ash rule, Representative McKinley (R-WV) has introduced a bill that guts the new EPA rule and protects the polluters who finance his campaigns.

The bill will permanently give polluters a free pass to dump coal ash (the second largest industrial waste stream in the nation) without any accountability to the communities they are impacting.

Joliet Lincoln Stone Quarry_1Coal ash is a dangerous waste product of burning coal at power plants, containing 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 91 coal ash disposal ponds, many 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. The majority of these pits are unlined.

Community groups, representing hundreds of citizens in Illinois, have continued to urge Congress to address failing ash pits in the state. Five government entities in Vermilion County, including the County Board, have even passed resolutions calling for protective standards.

Nevertheless, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chaired by Illinois’ own Rep. Shimkus, will vote on the new bill on April 15, and a full House vote is expected by the end of April.

The proposed “Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015” stands to remove several critical health and environmental protections.

The bad bill proposal will:

  • DELAY new health and safety protections – potentially for more than 10 years;

  • WEAKEN the rule’s mandate to close inactive (contaminated and abandoned) ponds;

  • ELIMINATE the rule’s guarantee of public access to information and public participation;

  • ELIMINATE the rule’s ban on storing and dumping coal ash in drinking water;

  • REMOVE the rule’s national standard for drinking water protection and cleanup of coal ash-contaminated sites;

  • REMOVE the rule’s national minimum standard for protection of health and the environment, allowing state programs to eliminate critical safety requirements;

  • PROHIBIT effective federal oversight of state programs; and

  • PROHIBIT EPA enforcement of state program requirements unless invited by a state


What can you do? Contact your representative and ask them to “VOTE NO on the McKinley coal ash bill”