Category: Great Lakes

For Illinois farmers, proof of cover crops’ benefits is in the soil

Read the full story in the News-Gazette.

Cover crops and soil health are what drew about 50 other farmers to a Nutrient Stewardship Field Day put on last week by the Marshall-Putnam Farm Bureau at Mark Monier’s farm. It was the third of nine such events this summer being conducted by Illinois Farm Bureau and numerous partners.

Chicago exploring organics and textile recycling, commercial waste zones through new strategy

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Chicago officials on Wednesday released a formal waste strategy for the city, which is thought to have one of the lowest recycling rates among major U.S. cities at around 9%. There are dozens of near- and long-term recommendations regarding policy, operations, community efforts and more.

Unlike some cities, Chicago is not setting a specific waste diversion target at this time. “We did not set a goal because I think for us this is a roadmap to move to a better direction,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar. “I think it would be a big leap to go from the current rates that we have here in the city of Chicago and then to jump all the way to zero waste without talking about the interim steps in order for us to get there.”

According to documents, another next step in the strategy is to research “potential for implementing waste hauling zones for commercial waste,” an approach New York City and Los Angeles have taken. Other ideas include bolstering organics collection by adding food scrap collection to yard waste routes, and establishing a revenue-sharing partnership with a textile recycling company for collecting clothes, shoes, and other textiles.

A battle between a great city and a great lake

Read the full story in the New York Times.

The climate crisis haunts Chicago’s future.

People dumped their pets into lakes, officials say. Now football-size goldfish are taking over.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The invasion begins innocently enough: A goldfish paddles the secluded waters of an at-home aquarium, minding its own business, disturbing no native habitats.

The real trouble comes later, when the human who put it there decides it’s time for a change. Not wanting to hurt the fish, but not wanting to keep it either, the pet’s owner decides to release it into a local lake, pond or waterway. That decision, experts say, is well-meaning but misguided — and potentially harmful.

Officials in Burnsville, a city about 15 miles south of Minneapolis, demonstrated why late last week, when they shared photographs of several massive goldfish that were recovered from a local lake. The discarded pets can swell and wreak havoc, the city warned.

Can Michigan become a climate haven? Duluth is already planning.

Read the full story at Bridge Michigan.

When Mayor Emily Larson first heard the hype about her city’s potential as a so-called climate haven — a place people will flock to as rising seas, drought, heat and wildfire make other regions less hospitable — “I thought it was bananas.”

But in the years since, Larson said, she has come to realize “it’s already happening.”

As climate change fuels dramatic changes that scientists say will make places in the West, South, and along the ocean coasts increasingly unlivable, the city has become a national poster child for the population shift that experts expect to see across the Great Lakes region, where milder climates and abundant fresh water could fuel immigration.

ISTC program yields big savings for Illinois wastewater treatment plants

Wastewater treatment plant tanks

by Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

Illinois municipalities hoping to save money on energy costs for wastewater treatment turn to the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) for advice.

The Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assistance Program started in 2018 with funding from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Partnering with the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), the TAP team visits publicly owned wastewater treatment plants across the state and drafts no-cost assessments with specific recommendations on how to lower energy costs. Similar assessments would cost between $6,000 and $12,000.

In four years, this project has developed 108 specialized energy efficiency assessments for individual wastewater treatment plants, identifying recommendations that can save municipalities over $2.8 million annually.

Wastewater treatment plants are one of the largest users of energy in cities. The costs are significant, particularly for plants with older infrastructure. The assessments typically include costs for equipment upgrades or retrofits, the time it takes for an upgrade to pay off in energy savings, and the amount of savings that could be realized with these upgrades.

Assessments also include utility incentives from companies such as Ameren and ComEd to offset as much as 75 percent of the costs for new and updated equipment, according to Mike Springman, retiring manager of the program.

To date, the program has assisted plants serving a total population of nearly 3 million with an annual energy cost savings of $500,000 each year. If the recommendations were all implemented, the savings would include 37.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity and greenhouse gas emissions at 32,590 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

The most common areas that could be improved upon to save energy costs are controls on air blowers, variable speed drives on pumps, and indoor and outdoor lighting. Even small changes can make a big difference, Springman said.

Recently, more plant operators have posed questions about solar energy. Size of the facility and space availability are primary determining factors.

“The next assessment reports will include a discussion on solar energy so that they can make an educated decision,” Springman said.

Over time, Springman’s job has become more challenging.

“The opportunities for cost savings are becoming more complicated,” he said. “The low-hanging fruit has been picked. The easy, low-cost items have already been fixed.”

Springman says that the biggest challenge that treatment plants have faced this year is the biodegradeable wipes that end up in the sewer system. The wipes may eventually degrade in a landfill but they bind up the pumps at wastewater treatment plants, causing a big headache for staff.

The IEPA-supported Energy Assistance Program is expected to continue for at least another three years and beginning in July 2021 will also be extended to municipally operated potable water treatment systems.

Email TAP at istc-info@illinois.edu and visit the TAP website here.

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Media contact: April Janssen Mahajan, 217-244-0469, alj5@illinois.edu
news@prairie.illinois.edu

This story originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News blog. Read the original story.

Webinar: Agriculture Impacts in the Illinois Climate Assessment

Aug 3, 2021 10-11 am CDT
Register here.

The climate in Illinois is changing rapidly. Illinois is already warmer and wetter than it was a century ago, and climate change will continue to drive rapid changes across the state. A new report from The Nature Conservancy – the first-ever comprehensive climate assessment for Illinois – details these changes, projects how temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather are expected to change, and explores how the state’s agriculture sector is likely to be affected by climate change.  

In this webinar, leading climate experts and Illinois scientists will discuss the results of the new report. Learn how predicted changes could affect Illinois agriculture & producers, including impacts to hydrology and public health.

Sharing key takeaways from the assessment will be:  Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford; Jim Angel, former Illinois State Climatologist and co-author of the climate report; and Elena Grossman, Research Specialist, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health.

SIU student wildlife biologist researches how coyotes’ and bobcats’ travels impact ecosystem

Read the full story from Southern Illinois University.

Nicole Gorman, a graduate student in zoology and research assistant at SIU’s Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, is studying bobcat and coyote movement in Southern and Central Illinois and their impact on areas they live in. A Granger, Indiana, native, Gorman is focusing on multispecies systems and the spatial behavior of wildlife in the two different environments – one forested and the other agricultural and more influenced by humans.

Webinar: Agriculture Impacts in the Illinois Climate Assessment

Aug 3, 2021 10-11 am
Register here.

The climate in Illinois is changing rapidly. Illinois is already warmer and wetter than it was a century ago, and climate change will continue to drive rapid changes across the state. A new report from The Nature Conservancy – the first-ever comprehensive climate assessment for Illinois – details these changes, projects how temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather are expected to change, and explores how the state’s agriculture sector is likely to be affected by climate change.  

In this webinar, leading climate experts and Illinois scientists will discuss the results of the new report. Learn how predicted changes could affect Illinois agriculture & producers, including impacts to hydrology and public health.

Sharing key takeaways from the assessment will be:  Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford; Jim Angel, former Illinois State Climatologist and co-author of the climate report; and Elena Grossman, Research Specialist, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health.

Illinois researchers using image recognition to manage invasive asian carp

Read the full story at Illinois Newsroom.

Fish and wildlife researchers are testing new image recognition technology on the Illinois River to manage invasive carp species.

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