Champaign County (IL) Volunteers Needed for Low-cost Radon Reduction Pilot Study

The Indoor Climate Research and Training program of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, in its capacity as a member of the Partnership for Advancing Residential Retrofit team of the U.S. DOE’s Building America Program, is conducting a pilot study on radon reduction through low-cost measures.

The aim of this research pilot project is to study the impact of air sealing between the foundation and the living space on radon transport reduction across the foundation-living space floor assembly. It is aimed at reducing radon levels in the lowest living level of the house.  Basements used as a living level are not candidates for this study.

As a part of this study, we are currently seeking homes in Champaign County with crawlspaces or unfinished basements. During this 3 month project, radon concentrations are measured before and after treatment, which involves air-sealing on the underside of the floor and duct sealing. There is no cost to the homeowner. Homes with known radon issues are preferred but not required. Please contact Stacy Gloss at or 217-300-7430 for more information.

We will not be conducting radon education. More information about radon can be found on the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) website or by calling IEMA in Springfield at (217) 782-2700, as well as on the U.S. EPA’s radon website. The U.S. EPA also maintains a Citizen’s Guide to Radon and has a page regarding healthy indoor environments when implementing energy efficiency upgrades.

This is not a health study. We will not be collecting health information.

A minute with B. K. Sharma and Nancy Holm, experts on plastics

Read the full interview from the University of Illinois.

On June 10, Illinois became the first state to ban plastic microbeads from consumer products, effective in 2017. Similar bans are pending in the California and New York legislatures. B.K. Sharma and Nancy Holm, researchers at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, talked about how plastic microbeads affect health and the environment in an interview with News Bureau physical sciences editor Liz Ahlberg.

New LibGuide: Illinois Environmental Law – Pollution and Sustainability

This LibGuide serves as a reference aid for Illinois Statutory Law regarding environmental and pollution regulations, sustainability initiatives, and energy efficiency standards. Commercial groups are encouraged to use the guide to meet state requirements.

Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s One Billion Gallon Challenge Announces First Research / Technology Demonstration Grants for Illinois

Four water research projects were announced Friday, May 30 – the first steps toward a goal of saving one billion gallons of water in Illinois.

American Water Corp., Carus Corp., Loyola University and the city of Urbana have been awarded grants through the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s (ISTC) Sponsored Research Grant Program.

ISTC, a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, established a One Billion Gallon Water Challenge earlier this spring. One of the components is to fund projects with businesses, industries, colleges, and municipalities that are focused on methods for reducing water use, treatment of wastewater or other process water for reuse, or other significant water-saving measures. Funded projects will be used as case studies by ISTC so that these approaches and technologies can be duplicated across the state.

The safety and accessibility of water supplies has been cited as a major concern by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The National Academy of Engineering named the quality and quantity of water as one of the Grand Challenges for Engineering.

“Our efforts are a deliberate strategy to demonstrate sustainable technologies that we hope will bring widespread economic and environmental benefits to Illinois,” said ISTC Director Kevin O’Brien. “Water is quickly becoming the life-blood to driving and maintaining economic growth.”

  • Carus Group Inc., of LaSalle, IL, received $63,446 to utilize technology to reuse treated process water used by their crystallizer vacuum system as non-contact cooling water. By recycling water in their systems, Carus has the potential to reduce its water use by 47 million gallons per year. Carus is a manufacturer of products for water treatment, industrial pollution control, and environmental remediation.
  • American Water received $75,000 to investigate an advanced leak monitoring technique to reduce water waste in its water distribution system in a pilot study in Mt. Prospect, IL. Continuous acoustic monitoring technology will be implemented to alert the utility to water leaks in the community’s infrastructure as they form, long before they become evident above ground. The technology is aimed at the reduction of 15 million gallon non-revenue water loss over the nine-month study period. If successful, American Water hopes this will be a model for use in other communities in Illinois. Economic analysis will also include secondary benefits such as reduction of leak repair costs and leak damage.
  • Loyola University of Chicago received $50,999 to pilot and evaluate a series of water conservation measures focusing on behavior-change campaigns for students and employees on campus and conservation retrofits in residence halls and laboratories. The university predicts annual water savings of at least 2.5 million gallons. They will also produce a Resource Tool Kit to assist other universities and institutions to conserve water.
  • The City of Urbana was awarded $3,000 to pilot smart irrigation controls which can sense when landscaping irrigation is beneficial. The project will compare areas having simple irrigation timers with areas outfitted with evapotranspiration controls (rain and freeze sensors). Their results could be used as a template for communities statewide.

Grant recipients were selected, in part, for their ability to demonstrate real water savings during fiscal 2015. Additional One Billion Gallon Water Challenge projects may be announced later this year.

The Center also is encouraging Illinois citizens, businesses, organizations, communities, and schools to join the Challenge by making a pledge to conserve water at the Billion Gallon Water Challenge website:

Composting gains steam in suburban schools, homes

Read the full story in the Daily Herald.

Across the [Chicago] suburbs, food scrap composting is taking hold at institutions and households that want to go beyond recycling. Composting diverts more material from landfills and lengthens their life spans. It also helps reduce greenhouse gases and cuts waste hauling costs. Further, the process recovers more nutrients than sending scraps down the garbage disposal, experts say.

Mining for fracking sand drives some Illinois farmers from land

Read the full story in the Chicago Tribune.

The Flynns are weary of bright lights that flood their bedroom each night from a sand mine next door. A second neighboring mine is in the works, and yet another nearby field has just been sold for mining as well.

“I always thought when I died I’d want to be cremated and just thrown around the farm,” Cathy Flynn said. “But if everything around me is going to be sand mines anyway, forget it.”

This is the other side of the fracking boom. Here, where sand is mined for hydraulic fracturing operations elsewhere in the country, people have two choices: sell or possibly be surrounded by pits.

Of PCBs, a landfill and drinking water

Read the full story in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette.

An EPA hearing on the Mahomet Aquifer generated a lot of talk this week — and while it’s not directly related to a hazardous waste landfill near Clinton, it’s part of the effort that began in 2007 with a small group of concerned residents in DeWitt County.

Nearly seven years later, hotel workers this week had to bring in extra chairs for the estimated 400 to 500 people who attended a hearing on the aquifer at the Hilton Garden Inn. Demonstrators rallied outside. Elected officials again sounded their concerns.