State of the Beach/State Reports/IL/Water Quality
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Water Quality Monitoring Program
The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) signed into law on October 10, 2000, amends the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), incorporating provisions intended to reduce the risk of illness to users of the Nation's recreational waters. The BEACH Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award program development and implementation grants to eligible States, Territories, Tribes, and local governments to support microbiological testing and monitoring of coastal recreation waters, including the Great Lakes, that are adjacent to beaches or similar points of access used by the public. BEACH Act grants also provide support for development and implementation of programs to notify the public of the potential exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in coastal recreation waters. EPA encourages coastal States and Territories to apply for BEACH Act Grants for Program Implementation (referred to as Implementation Grants) to implement effective and comprehensive coastal recreation water monitoring and public notification programs. CWA section 406(i) authorizes appropriations of up to $30 million per year to develop and implement beach programs. Unfortunately, only about one-third that amount has been authorized each year since the program's inception. For 2012, the total fund available for BEACH Act grants was $9.8 million. Funding beyond 2012 is in jeopardy, since EPA's budget request for this program in FY2013 was ZERO (money for testing in 2013 was ultimately allocated as part of a Continuing Resolution to resolve the Federal Budget impasse) and there is also no money for beach testing in the FY2014 budget. If available, funds are allocated to the states and territories based on a formula which uses three factors that are readily available and verifiable: (1) Length of beach season, (2) miles of beach and (3) number of people that use the beaches. Illinois was eligible for a $241,000 grant in 2012. BEACH Act grants fully fund the Illinois Great Lakes beach monitoring program.
Portions of the following discussion are taken from NRDC's report Testing the Waters, A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, June 2012.
Illinois has 52 public Great Lakes swimming beaches along approximately 60 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) administers the state's coastal beach monitoring program.
Beachwater quality at North Point Marina Beach in Lake County has consistently been poor; yearly percent exceedance rates from 2005 to 2011 ranged from 34% to 83%. The Lake County Health Department received Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to plant native vegetation, restore the dunes, and remove invasive species. This project is expected to improve water quality and reduce the number of swimming bans at this beach by reducing the seagull population. Work began in spring of this year and is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2013.
Two beaches in Chicago, 63rd Street Beach (Jackson Park) and 57th Street Beach, have routinely exceeded water quality standards in the past. Fecal contamination at these beaches is known to be caused at least in part by large numbers of seagulls. Using border collies during the beach season to harass gulls every day from dawn to dusk has proved to be an effective means of improving water quality at these beaches. Gull harassment was implemented in 2008, 2010, and 2011, and the percentage of beachwater samples that exceeded standards in those years was far lower than in years with no gull harassment.
Sampling Practices: The monitoring season extends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Samples are taken in water that is knee to waist deep. It is up to the managing entity for each beach to issue swim bans and advisories, depending on EPA guidance and the beach managers' own policies.
Many coastal swimming beaches in Illinois are sampled seven days a week, as Illinois believes daily monitoring is most protective of public health. Areas of shoreline that are not used for swimming because they are rocky or otherwise unsuitable are not monitored.6 Monitoring on a daily basis is conducted when a swim ban or advisory is issued.
Closings and Advisories
Standards and Procedures: Depending on the managing authority for coastal beaches, both advisories and swim bans are issued. The water quality standard in Illinois is an E. coli single-sample maximum of 235 cfu/100 ml. No geometric mean standard is applied when making swim ban and advisory decisions.
In most jurisdictions, either a swim ban or an advisory is issued if one sample exceeds the single-sample standard. The only exceptions are beaches managed by the Wilmette Health Department (the Gillson Park beaches and Langdon Beach) and the Winnetka Park District (Tower, Maple, and Elder beaches). Two samples are taken daily at these beaches, and if one sample exceeds the standard, a resample is taken before a swim ban is issued. If both samples exceed the standard, a swim ban is issued without resampling. In 2011, the Chicago Park District posted an advisory at its beaches when sample results were between 235 cfu/100 ml and 1,000 cfu/100 ml, and a ban when sample results exceeded 1,000 cfu/100ml. Beginning in 2012, the Chicago Park District is posting advisories when sample results exceed 235 cfu/100 ml and bans when there is a sewage spill.
Beach managers may preemptively issue swim bans or advisories because of rain or other factors.
The managers of Waukegan South Beach, Forest Park Beach in Lake Forest, and Rosewood Beach in Highland Park in Lake County use a predictive model called SwimCast to make swim ban and advisory decisions. At a minimum, predictions are generally made at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and whenever hydrometeorological conditions change. For each beach where the SwimCast system exists, similar but slightly different predictive models are utilized. These models predict beachwater conditions on a real-time basis, in contrast to standard culture methods for quantifying bacteria. When culture methods are used as the basis for issuing swim bans and advisories, health warnings are not issued until at least 24 hours after samples are taken due to the time required to process and read the samples. In a sense, using culture methods to issue swim bans and advisories is akin to using yesterday's bacteria density to predict today's bacteria density. Studies have shown that SwimCast provides a more accurate assessment of current beachwater quality than does the prior day's bacterial density.
SwimCast models produce a 99% confidence interval—that is, a lower and upper bound of bacterial concentrations between which the actual bacteria concentration is expected, with 99% confidence, to lie. At all beaches where the SwimCast model is used, the determination of swim bans and risk advisories is the same:
- A swim ban occurs when the lower bound of the 99% confidence interval prediction is above 235 cfu/100 ml. Under a ban, the beach is posted with a red flag. This is the highest-risk condition.
- When the average prediction and upper bound of the 99% confidence interval prediction are above 235 cfu/100 ml but the lower bound is below 235 cfu/100 ml, this is considered to be a moderate- to high-risk condition and is posted as an advisory at the beach.
- When the upper bound of the 99% confidence interval prediction is above 235 cfu/100 ml but the average prediction and the lower bound of the 99% confidence interval prediction are below 235 cfu/100 ml, this is considered to be a moderate-risk condition and is posted as an advisory at the beach.
- When the upper bound of the 99% confidence interval prediction is below 235 cfu/100 ml, this is considered to be a low-risk condition and is posted with a green flag.
In the Chicago Park District, intensive data collection began in 2011 for model development at five additional beaches: Foster, Montrose, Oak Street, 63rd Street, and Calumet. The District is using models at several of these beaches to make swim ban and advisory decisions in 2012.
Chicago has a hotline to call for beach conditions: (312) 74BEACH
In Lake County, the Health Department's Lakes Management Unit works to monitor swimming beaches along Lake Michigan. Four of these beaches are monitored through the utilization of SwimCast systems, which provide staff members and beach operators with real-time conditions, allowing for the most accurate and timely decisions regarding the health of Lake County beaches.
The Great Lakes Commission (GLC), in partnership with LimnoTech and the Great Lakes states, has developed a free smartphone application that provides convenient, public access to swim advisories and other environmental conditions information for more than 1,800 beaches in the Great Lakes region. Funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the myBeachCast application (app) retrieves locational and advisory data for Great Lakes and inland lake beaches in the eight Great Lakes states. The app also features real-time and forecasted weather and lake conditions (e.g., water temperature, wave heights, wind speed/direction) and nearshore marine forecasts, drawn from the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). myBeachCast allows users to discover local beaches based on the user’s location, view beaches and their status on a map, save favorite beaches, and get driving directions. To download myBeachCast, go to http://beachcast.glin.net.
The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) Strategy identifies coastal health as a priority recognizing the significance of beaches to the economic well-being, health and quality of life of the region's citizens. The GLRC Clean Beaches Initiative is an effort to help encourage the implementation of best beach management practices, including the use of sanitary surveys and actions to remediate contamination sources, as outlined by the GLRC Strategy. The GLRC Clean Beaches Initiative workgroup is comprised of federal, state, local, and tribal partners.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), through its Great Lakes Beach Health Initiative, has been conducting research to advance the science of beach health in the Great Lakes for over a decade. The overall mission of this work is to provide science-based information and methods that will allow beach managers to more accurately make beach closure and advisory decisions, understand the sources and physical processes affecting beach contaminants, and understand how science-based information can be used to mitigate and restore beaches and protect the public. The work consists of four science elements—real-time assessments; pathogens and microbial source tracking; coastal processes; and data analysis, interpretation, and communication.
A multi-agency Advanced Monitoring Initiative project entitled Developing Water and Land Tools to Forecast Bacterial Exposure in Beach Settings was initiated in 2007 to develop, synthesize, compare, and promote tools that can provide early warnings about pathogen indicator levels. Led by researchers and tool developers from EPA, USGS, NOAA, state and local governments, and universities, this project integrates several approaches that link environmental observations to the forecasting of microbial exposure, including statistical, hydrodynamic/process-based, and non-point source pollution models.
Water Quality Contacts
Number of Closings and Advisories: Total swim ban/advisory days for 325 events lasting six consecutive weeks or less decreased 6% to 476 days in 2011 from 508 days in 2010. For prior years, there were 576 days in 2009, 534 days in 2008, 793 days in 2007, 591 days in 2006, and 585 days in 2005. There were no extended or permanent events in 2011. Extended events are those in effect more than six weeks but not more than 13 consecutive weeks; permanent events are in effect for more than 13 consecutive weeks. For the 325 events lasting six consecutive weeks or less, 95% (450) of swim ban/advisory days were due to monitoring that revealed elevated bacteria levels, 1% (4) were preemptive due to heavy rainfall, and 5% (22) were preemptive to due known sewage spills or leaks.
Beach Closure Data
Source: NRDC, 2012
∗ = at least this number
In 2011, Illinois reported 62 coastal beaches and beach segments. Of these, 19 (31%) were assigned a monitoring frequency of once a day, 28 (45%) more than once a week, 3 (5%) once a week, and 12 (19%) were not assigned a monitoring frequency.
In 2011, 12% of all reported beach monitoring samples exceeded the state's daily maximum bacterial standard of 235 colonies/100 ml. The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the state standard in 2011 were Winnetka Elder Park Beach in Cook County (54%), North Point Marina Beach in Lake County (34%), Winnetka Centennial Dog Beach in Cook County (29%), Highland Park Moraine Park Dog Beach in Lake County (29%), and Wilmette Gillson Park Dog Beach (29%), Glencoe Park Beach (28%), Rainbow Beach (24%), Montrose Beach (23%), and South Shore (22%) in Cook County. Beaches in Lake County had the highest exceedance rate of the state standard in 2011 (13%), followed by Cook County (12%). NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis. This includes duplicate samples and samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.
In June 2012, U.S. EPA released its latest data about beach closings and advisories for the 2011 swimming season. Note that for some states the data is incomplete, making state-to-state or year-to-year comparisons difficult.
The Illinois Department of Public Health lists the 2007 Beach Closings, most of which occurred at inland beaches rather than Lake Michigan Beaches. Reports do not seem to be available online for more recent years.
Storm Drains and Sewage Outfalls
Chicago has the largest sewage treatment facilities in the world. The Stickney Plant has a capacity of 1.2 billion gallons per day.
Here's a good summary of the development and expansion of Chicago's sewer system from the mid-1800s to the present.
The website of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago contains additional information on sewage treatment facilities in the Chicago area and some history.
Chicago is tightening limits on industrial water pollution for the first time in more than a decade. New restrictions will reduce the maximum allowable discharges for half a dozen hazardous substances, including three which previously had no top limit at all. A recent survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggested the East Chicago Sanitary District could -- and should -- lower previously acceptable caps on arsenic, cyanide, mercury, molybdenum, phenols and chlorine. Until the new restrictions were signed in April 2006 by Mayor George Pabey, the city had no limits on how much arsenic, molybdenum and chlorine could be discharged into its wastewater treatment system.
At the same time, state environmental regulators with Illinois EPA are proposing standards that for the first time would limit the amount of bacteria in the Chicago River and require more dissolved oxygen to support fish and other aquatic life. The proposed changes would require disinfection (most likely with ultraviolet light) of wastewater treatment plant sewage discharges. Currently, bacteria levels in wastewater from the the North Side Treatment Plant are approximately 400 times higher than the amount found in disinfected wastewater that Philadelphia pumps into the Delaware River.
Officials at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District question whether the benefits would be worth the costs. "We're not convinced there are enough people using the waterways to merit spending this money," said Richard Lanyon, the district's research director. Spread out over two decades, the project is estimated to cost between $2 and $5 per month per household. Pushing for the disinfection project are Friends of the Chicago River, whose Margaret Frisbie says "Why should we only have nice rivers and streams in places like northern Michigan?" Illinois EPA engineer Rob Sulski says that "The effect will be upgrading the river to something closer to Clean Water Act standards." More information on this subject can be found in this article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on August 19, 2010.
In May 2011 the Chicago Tribune reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had issued an order that stretches of the Chicago River must be clean enough for "recreation in and on the water," a legal term for recreational activities including swimming and canoeing. The order also applies to two connected waterways, the Cal-Sag Channel and Little Calumet River. The order will require the North Side Treatment Plant to disinfect their treated sewage before it is discharged into the Chicago River. Chicago is the only major U.S. city that skips that important germ-killing step. Until now, the river and its connected waterways have been exempt from the toughest provisions of the Clean Water Act because it was long assumed that people wouldn't want to come near the channels. In June 2011 the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District voted to disinfect the wastewater discharged into the river from the North Side and Calumet water reclamation plants.
An issue that all sewage treatment plants have to deal with is disposal or beneficial reuse of the sewage sludge (otherwise known as "biosolids") from the process. Chicago's Stickney Plant has contracted with a firm called MBM to convert the biosolids to dry fertilizer pellets. A September 20, 2007 article in the Chicago Tribune details a long history of problems with the company that was awarded the contract. The showcase plant is now nearly four years behind schedule. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago plans to levy more than $1 million in late charges against MBM. In 2004, top district officials tried unsuccessfully to end the deal because of construction delays and permit disputes.
During a press conference in Chicago June 26, 2006, U.S. Representatives Mark Kirk and Dan Lipinski unveiled the proposed Great Lakes Water Protection Act, which establishes a federal deadline to end sewage dumping into the Great Lakes. Kirk and Lipinski's legislation gives cities until 2026 to build the full infrastructure needed to prevent sewage dumping into the Great Lakes. After the deadline, those who violate the dumping regulations will be fined $100,000 for every day they are in violation. Currently, the law provides for fines of $25,000 a day for dumping of sewage over U.S. EPA prescribed limits. The legislation also would create a fund that would be used to help clean up water and beaches in areas where violations have occurred.
An article that appeared in the Rockford Register Star on June 25, 2011 stated:
- "Overflows occur in 121 Illinois communities. They fouled 250 miles of rivers and streams from 2006 through 2008, according to the Illinois EPA. Chicago’s system also dumps untreated sewage into Lake Michigan during heavy storms. The federal government has ordered cities to develop plans for how they will limit overflows to no more than four per year or capture 85 percent of the volume when the systems do overflow. Most plans must be completed by the end of September, to be implemented over a specific time period, sometimes up to two decades."
A Great Lakes Sewage Report Card was published in November 2006 by Sierra Legal Defence Fund (now Ecojustice). The report states that over 24 billion gallons of sewage and wastewater discharge are dumped into the Great Lakes every year. Detroit, Michigan received the lowest grade in the survey, D, for its discharges into Lake Erie. The city receiving the highest grade was Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Protecting Public Health, Caring for Chicago’s Waters, An Agenda for Action by the group Alliance for the Great Lakes calls for Chicago to join other major U.S. cities and disinfect its wastewater - or risk continuing to threaten public health by releasing bacteria and other disease-carrying agents into the Chicago River.
Information on Illinois' stormwater program can be found at: http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/permits/storm-water/
Illinois' Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program is being developed in conjunction with development and approval of the ICMP. This document describes the program development.
In February 2006, it was announced that the federal budget for FY 2006-2007 contained $45 million for the Deep Tunnel project (officially the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan or TARP). Specifically, the appropriated funds will go for the first 3.5 billion-gallon phase of a planned 10.5 billion-gallon reservoir in McCook, scheduled for completion by 2019. The overall project includes the reservoir in McCook, a $230 million reservoir in Thornton (scheduled for completion by 2014), a reservoir near O'Hare International Airport (already completed) and 109.4 miles of underground tunnels (completed in spring 2006). TARP began way back in 1972. It includes 204 miles of underground tunnels about 300 feet below ground from Wilmette to Hodgkins. The mainstream tunnel, a $975 million project, is 33 feet in diameter and holds about a billion gallons of water.
In March 2011 an article Feds probe chronic sewage overflows into lake, streams in the Chicago Tribune questioned the effectiveness of the Deep Tunnel project, stating:
"But nearly four decades after taxpayers started paying for one of the nation's most expensive public works projects, billions of gallons of bacteria-laden sewage and storm runoff still routinely pour into the Chicago River and suburban waterways during and after storms, according to records obtained by the Tribune.
Lake Michigan, long considered the sewage outlet of last resort, has been hit harder during the past four years than it was in the previous two decades combined.
Between 2007 and 2010, records show, the agency in charge of Deep Tunnel dumped nearly 19 billion gallons of storm water teeming with disease-causing and fish-killing waste into the Great Lake, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs. By contrast, 12 billion gallons poured out between 1985 and 2006."
Illinois is somewhat unique regarding stormwater runoff in that while portions of the state drain to Lake Michigan, other parts of the state drain to the Mississippi River and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico. As detailed in the wastewater system history referenced above, some of the drainage to the Mississippi River is not natural. In the 1890s, the Water Reclamation District reversed the flow of area rivers from Lake Michigan to end pollution of Cook County's main source of drinking water -- Lake Michigan. The District later built about 56 miles of canals to the Des Plaines, Chicago and Calumet Rivers to further protect Lake Michigan from pollution, but at the expense of those rivers, the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Interestingly, in September 2010 it was reported that Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley floated the idea of undoing what has been called Chicago's greatest engineering feat --- reversing the flow of the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan --- to improve the ecology of the Great Lakes. More on this.
Chicago has initiated a project called Green Alleys which aims to stop polluted rainwater in the city's alleyways from ending up in adjacent Lake Michigan. Chicago's 13,000 alleys, stretching 1,900 miles, date back to the 1800s. They also make up about 3,500 acres of impermeable surface. Many of the alleys were built without connections to storm sewers. Rainwater puddles on the pavement and can run into buildings, sometimes flooding basements. So, the extreme alley makeover started with the pavement. The alleys are being resurfaced with concrete, asphalt or paving stones that are permeable -- that is, water runs through them like a sieve to the dirt beneath. Microbes that thrive on materials like fertilizer and oil are seeded into the pavement or migrate there naturally. They cleanse the water of pollutants from cars and lawns. The cleaner water makes its way into the groundwater, and then flows into Lake Michigan. That's a big deal, because the city takes about a billion gallons of water out of Lake Michigan every year. But only about 1 percent of that water finds its way back to the lake. Other features of the Green Alley program include the use of recycled materials in pavement and energy-efficient light fixtures that direct light downward to reduce light pollution. As of mid-2008, Chicago has greened 40 alleys, with 48 more scheduled to get the treatment by the end of 2008. More information.
A related project is Chicago's greenest street in America — in reality stretches of two streets on the city’s South Side that are the beneficiaries of an innovative experiment not only in “green” street building but, more importantly, sustainable place making. More information.
A study by the Environmental Working Group released in April 2006 found that a relatively small percentage of rural counties--many of them in Illinois--are contributing to most of the nutrient pollution that is creating a summertime "dead zone" in the Gulf. McLean, LaSalle and Iroquois Counties were specifically cited as problem areas by the study. Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, suggested that if a small percentage of the land in the most heavily polluting counties were restored into wetlands or buffer strips, much of the nitrogen pollution from fertilizer could be removed before it reached the Mississippi.
A series of articles in the Great Lakes Echo discuss stormwater and municipal wastewater issues throughout the Great Lakes that are impacting recreational water quality.
Perception of Causes
U.S. EPA and federal, state and local beach program partners developed standardized beach sanitary survey forms in 2007. These forms assist beach managers with a consistent approach to identify pollution sources, share information, and plan source remediation. The forms were successfully piloted by 61 Great Lakes beaches during the 2007 beach season, through EPA funding. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) Clean Beaches Initiative is focused on broadening the use of these standard sanitary survey forms throughout the Great Lakes region. Beach managers, cities, tribes, and citizen volunteers are encouraged to use the standard sanitary survey forms and take this first critical step towards ensuring clean and safe beaches.
An article in the Great Lakes Echo in December 2012 discussed many of the water quality problems in the Great Lakes, including bacterial pollution, algal blooms and invasive species.
In accordance with Sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), the Illinois EPA must report to the USEPA on the quality of Illinois surface water (e.g., lakes, streams, Lake Michigan, wetlands) and groundwater resources (Section 305b) and provide a list of those waters where their designated uses are deemed "impaired" (Section 303d). In addition, the Illinois EPA must assess the water quality of all publicly-owned lakes in accordance with section 314(a)(1). To aid in making these determinations, the Illinois EPA annually collects chemical, physical, biological, habitat, and toxicity data, depending on the type of water body. Read more.
Great Lakes Restoration
In June 2009 President Obama appointed Cameron Davis, president of the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, the first-ever Great Lakes “czar.” Mr. Davis will coordinate federal programs on the lakes, including efforts to clean up contaminated sediments, reduce existing pollution sources and work to stop the spread of invasive species. The position is part of a $5 billion, 10-year restoration plan Obama released during his 2008 presidential campaign. Davis' official title is "senior adviser on the Great Lakes" to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.
Congress approved legislation in late October 2009 that included $475 million to restore the Great Lakes by combating invasive species, cleaning up highly polluted sites and expanding wetlands. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) includes:
- $146 million for cleaning up pollution in sediment in feeder rivers and harbors before it flows into the Lakes.
- $105 million to protect and restore habitat and wildlife.
- $97 million to stop "nonpoint" pollution, such as farm fertilizer and oil runoff, that closes beaches and leads to fish kills.
- $65 million to evaluate how the Lakes and wildlife are responding to cleanup efforts.
- $60 million for combating zebra mussels and other invasive species.
This initiative will use outcome-oriented performance goals and measures to target the most significant problems and track progress in addressing them. EPA and its Federal partners will coordinate State, tribal, local, and industry actions to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. The Initiative builds upon 5 years of work of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force (IATF) and stakeholders, guided by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. The IATF includes 11 cabinet and agency organizations, including: EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Departments of State, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Army, and Health and Human Services.
The IATF developed a Plan for the $475 million budget, including over $250 million in grants and project agreements aimed at achieving the long term goals: safely eating the fish and swimming at our beaches, assuring safe drinking water, and providing a healthy ecosystem for fish and wildlife. A companion Agency Actions document describes proposed accomplishments for each Agency pursuant to the Initiative.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative website provides additional information on the progress of this initiative, including the award of grants for specific projects.
The FY2010-FY2014 Great Lakes Restoration Action Plan was released on February 21, 2010. This Plan provides information about how the GLRI will address specific high profile, basinwide issues (for example, aquatic invasive species) as well as critical but more localized issues (for example, contaminated sediments). EPA and the IATF will use this plan to guide the overall direction and focus of GLRI and lays out the goals, objectives, measures, and actions that will help track our federal efforts from fiscal year 2010 through 2014.
The report State of the Great Lakes 2010 contains discussions on each of the Great Lakes and the current and planned restoration projects.
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 120 environmental, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums. Their member organizations represent millions of people who share a common goal of restoring and protecting North America’s greatest freshwater resource, the Great Lakes. The coalition reflects a growing public awareness of the urgent need to restore the health of the Great Lakes, which are essential to the economic and cultural identity of our region. The coalition’s mission is to secure a sustainable Great Lakes restoration plan and the funding needed to implement it. The coalition seeks to:
- stop sewage contamination that closes beaches and harms recreational opportunities;
- clean up toxic sediments that threaten the health of people and wildlife;
- prevent polluted runoff from cities and farms that harm water quality;
- restore and protect high quality wetlands and wildlife habitat that filter pollutants, provide a home for fish and wildlife, and support the region’s outdoor recreation economy;
- prevent the introduction of invasive species, such as Asian carp, that threaten the economy and quality of life for millions of people.
There are a number of invasive plant and animal species that inhabit the Great Lakes and disrupt the ecological balance of aquatic life. Two such species are the spiny water flea and zebra mussels. More info on invasive species is available here and here.
The Nonpoint Source Unit (NPS Unit) of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency works to protect rivers, lakes, streams, groundwater and wetlands from pollutants from sources such as urban and construction site runoff, agricultural runoff, hydrologic modification, and resource extraction. Staff work with citizens, citizen groups, local, state, and federal organizations (including government agencies) to develop and implement NPS pollution control projects. Projects range from educational programs (storm drain stenciling) to diverse watershed management projects in urban and rural areas (citizen-lead projects for planning and implementation of best management practices, or "BMPs", to protect water quality).
The Alliance for the Great Lakes (formerly Lake Michigan Federation) has a publication A Prescription for Healthy Beaches - Helping You Help Your Beach.
An article Surfing and Saving Lake Michigan was written by Ingrid Lindfors, co-founder of the Lake Michigan chapter of Surfrider Foundation.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a Powerpoint presentation Clean and Green Marina Program.
The southern Lake Michigan region is a unique place that encompasses urban, industrial, residential, agricultural, and natural settings. There are a number of pressures and concerns in this region that are addressed by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG).
In the face of growing populations and limited resources, four regional planning agencies in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin (with support from IISG) have committed to work together to manage environmental, economic, and transportation concerns for the future. The Wingspread Tri-State Regional Accord covers 17 counties, nearly 8,000 square miles, and more than 1,500 government entities in the southern Lake Michigan region. This has led to the Tri-State Water Consortium, which will plan for a sustainable, high quality water supply for future generations in the greater Chicago metropolitan area.
The Calumet Restoration Initiative is an ambitious project of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois to rejuvenate this depressed region both economically and ecologically. As a result of IISG research, an optimal site for a new environmental center in the Calumet region has been identified. Since then, the Ford Motor Company and other industry supporters have donated $7 million to the project. This year, Sea Grant is funding research to estimate the non-market economic benefits for citizens of the Lake Calumet region from the proposed restoration of the Hegewisch Marsh and the development of the environmental center.
IISG has created several publications to direct fish consumption advisory information to critical populations in urban centers. Contaminants in Fish and Seafood, written for women who are pregnant, who plan to be pregnant, or who have babies or young children, explains the potential health impacts on babies and children from eating even small amounts of mercury or PCB-contaminated fish. The ABCs of PCBs, was written in four languages--English, Spanish, Polish, and Korean--to reach a number of underserved audiences with information about PCBs in fish and their connection to human health.
IISG is funding several research projects focused on heavy metals and mercury, which will be critical for resource managers as they decide where and how to enact remediation efforts in the highly polluted Calumet region and beyond.
Through the U. S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) in partnership with IISG, legislators and agency managers in all Great Lakes states and Canada now have access to the latest science-based Great Lakes monitoring information on which to base policy and management decisions. IISG’s Great Lakes ecosystem extension specialist in the GLNPO office has provided a critical link between research and outreach at the agency.
The State of Illinois turned to IISG (and Chicago’s Port Authority) to educate the shipping industry about aquatic invasive species issues. The result is Stop Ballast Water Invasions, a brochure for the Great Lakes shipping community, which is distributed to ship captains entering the Illinois International Port; Burns Harbor, Indiana; and other Great Lakes ports.
IISG and Michigan Sea Grant have produced a brochure The Beach Manager's Manual - Harmful Algal Blooms.
The Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health (CEGLHH) focuses on understanding the inter-relationships between the Great Lakes ecosystem, water quality and human health. The Center employs a multidisciplinary approach to understand and forecast coastal-related human health impacts for natural resource and public policy decision-making, and develop tools to reduce human health risks associated with three research priority areas: beach closures, harmful algal blooms, and drinking water quality.
The International Joint Commission (U.S. and Canada) has a Beaches and Recreational Water Quality Workgroup that has developed a Beaches Fact Sheet and several other documents evaluating sources of recreational water quality contamination and reviewing best management practices.
General Reference Documents and Websites
EPA has compiled several NPS (Nonpoint Source) Outreach Products that are a selection of television, radio, and print products on nonpoint source pollution that have been developed by various agencies and organizations around the country. They are good examples of outreach in the mass media.
NOAA, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International City/County Management Association and Rhode Island Sea Grant, will be releasing, in August 2009, a first-of-its kind interagency guide that adapts smart growth principles to the unique needs of coastal and waterfront communities. Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities builds on existing smart growth principles to offer 10 coastal and waterfront-specific guidelines that help manage development while balancing environmental, economic, and quality of life issues.
USGS' Great Lakes Beach Science website has a nationwide database that contains greater than 1200 citations for publications directly and indirectly pertaining to recreational water quality intended for access by the general public and scientific community. It is a fully searchable, downloadable bibliography that has been categorized into major study topics.
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