Great Lakes

Illinois coal plant owners say they’ve done their part

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Owners of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants in Illinois told regulators Monday that they should look to other generators to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.

Former Echo reporter scores another national award, gives success formula

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

A former Echo writer has won national recognition for a series of environmental stories about the Great Lakes.

Brian Bienkowski, now a reporter and editor at Environmental Health News, received second place in a beat reporting category in the contest sponsored by the national Society of Environmental Journalists.

The series is called Stories of the Great Lakes’ People, Places and Creatures.

Bienkowski, a 2012 graduate of the Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, also received the same award in the same contest last year.

While at MSU, he received the center’s Rachel Carson Award for outstanding environmental journalism graduate student. I figured it would be a good idea to probe for his formula for success:

U.S. EPA won’t grant Clinton landfill PCB permit

Read the full story in the News-Gazette.

The federal chemical waste permit that a DeWitt County landfill had been waiting on for years will not move forward, the U.S. EPA said on Wednesday.

The decision is based on the state EPA’s action at the end of July to ban certain chemicals at Clinton Landfill, which sits above the underground source of drinking water for 750,000 central Illinoisans. Before that, the landfill had been waiting for seven years for the federal EPA to approve a request to start accepting polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated waste.

Toledo’s poisoned water: Here’s what will make things worse

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Thankfully, the taps are back on in Toledo.

It’s a stunning situation: a major American city perched on the shores of one of the world’s biggest sources of fresh water deprived of clean drinking water due to pollution, failing infrastructure and climate change. All preventable issues.

After a three-day “no drink” ban on water from Lake Erie, folks in northwestern Ohio and nearby communities in Michigan can drink the water again. But it shines a bright national spotlight on the growing issue of Lake Erie’s water quality that has been vexing to Ohioans and Michiganders for some time. And folks in the Buckeye State have to recognize that Ohio unfortunately has moved down a road that could make the issue more frequent.

The sources of the algae bloom are multifaceted. They include an array of water pollution sources (see the suite of blogs posted by NRDC’s Midwest Program staff, including Karen Hobbs and Rob Moore). And it is clear that worsening climate change impacts will continue to exacerbate the issue: more violent storms flush ever-more fertilizer-laden runoff into the lake, while its shallow waters are warmed, making it more susceptible to the algae blooms at the heart of Toledo’s water woes.

Groups urge swift action to reduce nutrient pollution, protect Great Lakes

Although the immediate crisis in the city of Toledo has passed, the threat to drinking water supplies in Toledo and other Lake Erie communities has not. The same factors that led to nearly 500,000 Lake Erie residents not being able to drink the water for two days will return until measurable reductions in nutrients, particularly phosphorus, are implemented on a clear and swift timetable.

Nutrient pollution is a clear danger not only to our drinking water, but our way of life and economic well-being. While the Great Lakes region is focusing on developing a “blue economy” for the Midwest, we must realize that this new economic future cannot stand with national headlines declaring Great Lakes water unsafe to drink. Until we stop polluting our lakes, our economy, drinking water and way of life are in jeopardy.

The algal bloom “season” on Lake Erie is just getting under way and is forecast to continue into October. Due to previous damage to the lake, invasive zebra/quagga mussels that exacerbate the concentration and intensity, and the effects of a changing climate, the nutrient pollution problem will likely get worse if we do nothing. This is a problem that is being felt most acutely in Lake Erie, but is well-entrenched in locations throughout the Great Lakes region.

Fortunately, the problem is not out of our control. It is preventable. It is unacceptable that our region has chosen to pollute Lake Erie so significantly that drinking water for approximately 11 million Americans and Canadians is at risk. We can change this. Swift action by the governors of Great Lakes states and Premier of Ontario is needed to implement measurable reductions in nutrients, particularly phosphorus, on a clear timetable to protect our region’s health, economy and quality of life.

See our “Recommendations for a Lake Erie Nutrient Diet” at:


Behind Toledo’s Water Crisis, a Long-Troubled Lake Erie

Read the full story in the New York Times.

It took a serendipitous slug of toxins and the loss of drinking water for a half-million residents to bring home what scientists and government officials in this part of the country have been saying for years: Lake Erie is in trouble, and getting worse by the year.

Flooded by tides of phosphorus washed from fertilized farms, cattle feedlots and leaky septic systems, the most intensely developed of the Great Lakes is increasingly being choked each summer by thick mats of algae, much of it poisonous. What plagues Toledo and, experts say, potentially all 11 million lakeside residents, is increasingly a serious problem across the United States.

Quinn signs water-safety legislation into law

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday signed into law three pieces of legislation aimed at improving safety of the state’s water supply.

The Urban Flooding Awareness Act creates a working group of representatives from local, state and federal agencies to recommend ways to control urban flooding. Another bill requires community water supply systems to designate an operator who will be directly responsible for each system’s supply and distribution.

And the third bill allows law enforcement agencies to collect pharmaceuticals and other controlled substances from residents for safe disposal.

Microsoft buys entire output of Illinois wind farm

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Microsoft took another step toward its goal of becoming carbon neutral, announcing its second enormous purchase of wind energy.

The company signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy 175 megawatts (MW) of wind energy — the entire output — of Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois. The wind farm is 60 miles from Chicago and will supply Microsoft’s data center there through the grid.

EPA Solicits Great Lakes Shoreline Cities Grant Proposals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a solicitation for a second round of Great Lakes Shoreline Cities Grants. EPA will award grants totaling up to $4.5 million to eligible shoreline cities to fund green infrastructure projects that will improve Great Lakes water quality.

This year, shoreline cities with a population greater than 25,000 and less than 50,000 will be eligible to apply for green infrastructure grants of up to $250,000. Last year, EPA awarded Shoreline Cities Grants totaling just under $7 million to 16 cities with populations greater than 50,000.

“This is an opportunity for more Great Lakes shoreline cities to obtain funding for green infrastructure projects,” said Region 5 Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman. “These GLRI grants will be used for green infrastructure projects that reduce urban runoff and sewer overflows that foul beaches and impair Great Lakes water quality.”

Cities can use the grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, porous pavement, greenways, constructed wetlands, stormwater tree trenches and other green infrastructure measures installed on public property. Detailed eligibility requirements are available at

More information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is available at