Topic: Clean Water Act

October 17, 2012

Celebrate the Clean Water Act’s 40th Birthday, October 18, 2012

We reflect on the importance of the Clean Water Act on its 40th anniversary.

Thanks to Paula Miller for the cake!

This week, Prairie Rivers Network is celebrating the Clean Water Act, the law that provides the foundation for much of our work to protect Illinois’ waters for people, fish, and wildlife. We will also pause to critically reflect on how the Act can be strengthened.

The Clean Water Act is one of our most critical environmental laws. It provides the foundation for us to ensure that our rivers, streams and lakes are healthy enough to support fishing, swimming and drinking–uses other than just industrial ones. And, most importantly, the Act allows people to take their complaints to officials whose job it is to protect the people’s water resources.

In reality, not many ordinary people have the time and expertise to pursue cases against the pollution of their waters. It is not easy to see a complaint through to resolution. The problem itself must be proven. The sources of the problem must be clearly identified. The problem and source must be legally documented. Finally, one must have enough power and stamina to stand by a case against deeper-pocketed interests.

That’s where Prairie Rivers Network can help. Thanks to the support from our members across the state, we use our scientific, legal and community organizing expertise to prevent pollution. For over a decade, Prairie Rivers Network has used the Clean Water Act to strengthen countless water pollution permits, to bring enforcement cases against illegal polluters, and to challenge and change agency practices that allowed too much water pollution.

Your financial support enables us to apply the power of the
Clean Water Act to help people protect their water. 

And while we will celebrate the true progress of the last 40 years, Prairie Rivers Network continues to support efforts to strengthen the Clean Water Act. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 removed protections from wetlands and intermittent or seasonal streams because of inconsistent language in the Act. We have argued that Congress should fix these inconsistencies and return protection to the broad range of waters that was originally envisioned by Congress.

What can you do to celebrate?

Make a donation to Prairie Rivers Network.

Watch and Share Minnesota Congressman Oberstar’s fantastic Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary video.

Find us on Facebook or Twitter and send your wishes: “Happy Birthday Clean Water Act!”



April 9, 2012

Dual Legal Actions to Reduce Pollution That Fouls Illinois Water and Fuels Gulf Dead Zone

By Glynnis Collins & Kim Knowles

This March, Prairie Rivers Network joined our Mississippi River Collaborative partners in launching two lawsuits against US EPA for their failure to regulate nutrient pollution.

Too many nutrients – a problem

Most people know that nitrogen and phosphorus are important nutrients for plants and animals. At high levels in water, however, the beneficial effects of these nutrients become problematic, and the nutrients are considered pollution.

Nitrate, a form of nitrogen, is toxic to people and other animals at high levels. A decade ago, Georgetown, Illinois had to abandon its drinking water reservoir because of high nitrate levels. Water suppliers for Decatur, Danville, and Streator had to install expensive ion exchange systems costing millions of dollars to remove nitrate from polluted reservoir water. Ongoing operation and maintenance expenses cost ratepayers tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

In rivers and lakes, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution stimulates excessive growth of algae, creating ugly mats or pea-soup scummy water. When the algae die, they rot. The bacteria that decompose them use up most or even all of the oxygen in the water, choking aquatic life. An enormous example of this problem is the “Dead Zone” that forms in the Gulf of Mexico every summer.

Especially in lakes and reservoirs, nutrient pollution can stimulate the growth of blue-green algae. This “pond scum” is unsightly and smells like vomit when it rots – enough to keep people from enjoying boating and swimming. The algae also sometimes release toxic chemicals into the water. Each summer, local communities throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois are forced to officially close beaches because of the potential presence of blue-green algae toxins. The toxins can sicken or even kill people, pets, and livestock.

Watch a video on Dead Zone pollution.

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December 6, 2011

Proposed New Strip Mine Threatens Drinking Water

Illinois EPA Proposes to Allow Serial Polluter to Operate New Coal Strip Mine Upstream of Canton Lake

Help residents protect their drinking water and ask state regulators to do their jobs – sign the petition now!

North Canton Mine Proximity to Canton Lake and Copperas Creek Thumb

Residents in Canton are worried about their drinking water. Unfortunately, they have good reason to be. Canton Lake, Copperas Creek, and the people who rely on them are under threat from a proposed 1,000-acre strip mine a mile upstream of Canton Lake.

Over 20,000 people rely on Canton Lake for their drinking water and have taken great lengths to protect this precious resource over the years. For many residents and others who travel to the region, this is an area valued for hunting along and fishing in Copperas Creek, the source for Canton Lake.

Any strip mine would be cause for concern; strip mining coal strips the land of trees and vegetation, regrades the land affecting drainage patterns, and creates water pollution. This would be bad for drinking water. But in this case, there is even more cause for concern. The operator of the mining company behind the proposal for the North Canton Mine (Capitol Resources Development Company) is the same operator for the company (Springfield Coal Company) that runs the Industry Mine. Springfield Coal Company is being sued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan because the Industry Mine’s environmental compliance record is one of the worst for coal mines in Illinois. The case was originally brought by Prairie Rivers Network and the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club in 2009 due to the mine’s continuous violations of its current water permit dating back at least to 2004 and with over 300 Clean Water Act Violations in the past six years. {Continue Reading »}

October 25, 2011

House Continues War on Clean Air and Water

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Weighs InLisa Jackson: Our vote for rockstar of the year

In an editorial published in last Friday’s Los Angeles Times, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lisa Jackson called on U.S. Representatives to stop their unrelenting assault on our nation’s landmark environmental laws, including “an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation’s waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades.” (Read this excellent article, “‘Too Dirty to Fail’?” here).

Jackson lambastes the myth that protecting the environment and public health hurts the economy, calling it “a choice that’s been proved wrong for the four decades that the EPA has been in existence. No credible economist links our current economic crisis — or any economic crisis — to tough clean-air and clean-water standards.”

In today’s anti-environment climate in Washington and here in Illinois, clean air and clean water have become more politicized than ever. That’s why we need YOU to participate in the public process. In the next days and weeks you’ll hear more from us about how to get in touch with agency officials and your legislators to let them know that you support strong protections for clean water, including:

  • Ask Illinois EPA to deny permits that would allow a coal fired power plant to dump more mercury into the Illinois River,  and that would allow a strip mine to open upstream of  Canton Lake, a drinking water and recreational resource for over 20,000 residents of Fulton County.
  • Urge your Senators to vote against legislation that would strip EPA of its ability to protect clean water from toxic coal ash. Less than a week after the U.S. House passed H.R. 2377, an identical bill was introduced in the Senate.  Like H.R. 2273, the Senate bill seeks to eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to ensure that storage and disposal of coal ash waste protects the health of our rivers and communities. Not yet numbered, leading champions for the bill are U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.). Like the House version, the Senate bill lacks common sense safeguards that would protect communities from irresponsible coal ash dumping, and leave regulations up to the states. As the bill moves through the Senate, we will need your help to block or defeat it, and will let you know how best to make your concerns loud and clear.
July 18, 2011

The War on Water

Update Aug 2: Congress is now adjourning for their summer break until September 6. Many of the dirty water bills and riders that are listed below are now on hold. However, many representatives and senators go back to their districts/states to talk to their constituents, if you have the opportunity, tell them to oppose all the “dirty water” bills.

Thank you for all of your calls and actions.
We will keep you updated as new developments arise.

We lost a battle, but we can still win the war.

The War on Water, as we’ve discussed here, is a coordinated group of attacks on our nation’s water laws that would destroy the Clean Water Act, gut the Environmental Protection Agency and set our nation back 40 years in clean water protection. This “war” is being waged with an arsenal of bills and riders (attachments to bills) that force us to coordinate our response on several different fronts. {Continue Reading »}

June 23, 2011

Action Alert: Stop the War on Clean Water

Assault on Clean Water Act Under Way in Congress

Forty years ago, the Clean Water Act was established to protect our nation’s waters and wetlands from pollution and destruction. Recently, two Supreme Court decisions have made it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to fully safeguard our waters.

Oil spills, mine waste, sewage, animal waste from factory farms, and polluted runoff foul Illinois waters. We all depend on these waters for drinking, for irrigation, and for recreation. They also provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife.

Keep reading to see how you can help…

New Clean Water Act Guidance – GOOD NEWS

The EPA and the Corps recently took an important and necessary step to restore essential protections in the Clean Water Act by creating draft guidance that defines which waters are protected by the Act. The guidance is the beginning of a process to restore vital safeguards for rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands that are essential for sustaining healthy communities. Unfortunately, polluters are mustering opposition to the proposed guidance; the agencies and lawmakers need to hear from those of us who want to protect clean water.

Dirty Water Bills – BAD NEWS

We are alarmed and deeply saddened that members of the United States Congress are willing to sacrifice our health and well-being by taking away legal protections that safeguard our water. There are three dirty water bills that must be stopped:

  • HR 2018 (Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011) guts some of the most important protections in the Clean Water Act by severely weakening EPA’s authority.
  • S 718 (Pesticide Clean Water Act Exemption) eliminates all Clean Water Act protections against pesticide pollution.
  • Water & Energy Appropriations Spending bill 26-20, section 109 is a rider that kills the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers guidance designed to restore Clean Water Act protections.


We can protect the Clean Water Act with your help.

  1. First, stand up for clean water by thanking EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers for proposing guidance that protects our water (EPA and the Corps are seeking public comment by July 1st, 2011). Prairie Rivers Network encourages you to tell EPA that you support the guidance, and that the guidance should be followed by a formal rulemaking that creates binding law.
  2. Second, call your Congressional representatives and tell them that you want them to support clean water:

Call your Representative and tell her or him (click here to find number):

I care about clean water.

I support EPA and Corps of Engineers guidance and regulations defining “waters of the US.”

Votes in favor of HR 2018 and Water & Energy Appropriations Spending bill 26-20,  section 109 are votes for dirty water and completely unacceptable!

Call Senator Durbin  at (202) 224-2152 and Senator Kirk at (202) 224-2854 and tell them:

I care about clean water.

I support EPA and Corps of Engineers guidance and regulations defining “waters of the US.”

A vote in favor of S718 is a vote for dirty water and completely unacceptable!

We cannot over-emphasize the very real danger presented by these bills.

Please make your calls today. Let us know how it goes.

 Your call matters.

Thank you for joining with us in this important battle for Clean Water!

(Special Thanks to National Wildlife Federation for its  invaluable support on this issue.)