Illinois Public Media News



WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 05, 2012

Lake Decatur Levels Could Mean More Water Restrictions

Lake Decatur water levels are about a foot below where the city would like them to be for this time of year.

Given the 10-day outlook for precipitation, Water Management Director Keith Alexander says it's more likely Decatur will again seek voluntary conservation measures, like it did late last summer.

The city had to enforce mandatory restrictions on use by October through most of December.

Alexander says there are plenty of things residents can do to cut down on water use.

"Not only does it help us out with conservation measures, but saves them dollars as well," he said. "Less water use means a lower water bill."

On any given day, Alexander says 75-percent of the city's water goes to commercial and industrial customers. Last year, the city asked restaurants to stop serving glasses of water, unless a patron asked for one.

"Reduce or eliminate all your outside landscape watering that you can possibly do," Alexander said. "Another thing to do would be to consider not doing any new landscape plantings this summer because it's going to be tough keeping those plants alive."

State climatologist Jim Angel says Decatur Airport registered .75 inches of rainfall in June, when normal precipitation for the month is 4.50 a half inches.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 04, 2012

Champaign Mayor Lobbies Governor on Plastic Bag Bill

The mayor of Champaign was part of a group that met in Chicago Tuesday with Gov. Pat Quinn --- asking him to veto a plastic bag recycling bill.

The measure (Senate Bill 3442) requires businesses that use plastic bags and plastic wrap to participate in a statewide recycling program. But it also bars home rule communities from setting up their own, stricter, rules --- like a ban or fee which the Champaign City Council is considering. Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said he doesn't see why the bill has to limit the role of local governments.

"In other municipalities around the country, they have done these exact same kind of bills," he said. "Only now, coincidentally, ours has a little caveat that we can't impose fees or bans or have our own ordinances; that they take away our home-rule authority and give the power to the State. I don't need another state program in Champaign."

But the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), said the ban on local rules is so businesses won't be confused about the requirements for plastic bags and wrap throughout the state.

"These stores, like a Target, everybody wants a Target to come into their community," Link said. "Well, they want to know what rules they're playing by in those communities. So, if you do a statewide standard, they know the rules they're playing in all these areas."

The clause in Link's bill barring cities from making their own rules on plastic bags was added just days after the Champaign City Council voted to look at proposals for taxing or banning the bags at local stores. The bill passed during the final days of the spring legislative session, and has been sent to the governor.

Besides Mayor Gerard, the group opposed to the bill that met with Governor Quinn included representatives of Sierra Club Illinois, Environment Illinois, the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Chicago Recycling Coalition; Chicago Alderman John Arena, and 12-year old Abby Goldberg of Grayslake, who gathered more than 154,000 signatures against the bill in an online petition drive.

(Photo courtesy of Champaign Mayor Don Gerard)

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 23, 2012

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

Worries about the Clinton Landfill's proposal to store hazardous PCB's are fueling a quest for a special federal designation for areas that get drinking water from the Mahomet Aquifer.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 20, 2012

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

PCB Concerns Prompt Special Protection for Mahomet Aquifer

Worries about the Clinton Landfill's proposal to store hazardous PCB's are fueling a quest for a special federal designation for areas that get drinking water from the Mahomet Aquifer.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 16, 2012

Lawmakers: Hazardous Waste Sites Need OK from Aquifer Counties

Four area lawmakers say it took the approval of the DeWitt County Board to send a controversial proposal to store PCB's at the Clinton landfill to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But those lawmakers say that under their proposal, one county's OK would not be enough.

Under their legislation (House Bill 6153), any hazardous waste facility located over an aquifer would need the approval of county boards of all the counties with land over that aquifer. The Clinton Landfill lies over the Mahomet Aquifer, which spreads out over 15 different counties.

That includes Champaign County, where the county board has already gone on record opposing the storage of PCB's at the Clinton Landfill. However, the Champaign County Board vote has no legal effect, because the landfill addition would be built in DeWitt County, not Champaign County.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) said requiring all 15 counties in the Mahomet Aquifer area to approve the storage of PCB's is a good way to avoid what he calls "pollution without representation."

'There are communities throughout east-central Illinois that are going to potentially have grave harm to their drinking source, their aquifer, and not have some say in the siting of this landfill. And that's the problem we're hoping to rectify," Frerichs said.

Besides Frerichs, the measure also has the backing of State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, (D-Urbana), Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) and Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet).

Rose drafted the legislation, working with Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades. Rose said he hopes he can win approval for the measure in the General Assembly, before the EPA makes a ruling on the Clinton Landfill proposal.

"There's a race to beat the clock here," Rose said. "If the federal EPA issues a permit, then we have a problem. So we're trying to do this as quickly as possible."

The EPA has delayed making a ruling on the Clinton Landfill PCB proposal, pending further study.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 14, 2012

Champaign Council Initiates Grocery Bag Fee

Champaign city leaders have asked staff to set up a fee charged by stores for using plastic or paper bags.

Concerns in a city survey about bag litter prompted a 2-and a half hour discussion in Tuesday night's city council study session, and a 6 to 3 vote favoring the fee. All but a handful of comments favored the plan to encourage use of reuseable bags when buying groceries and retail items.

In an online city survey, nearly 900 respondents indicated they reuse the bags, but many were also concerned about the amount of litter they produce. Cindy Eaglan of Illini Recycling says she's all for using tote bags instead, but says Champaign should focus on other areas of recycling instead of taxing seniors who can't afford the fee, and driving consumers elsewhere.

"I will not be penalized to shop here," Eaglan said. "And that's basically what you're doing. Putting a tax on bags is simply a penalty for choosing to shop in Champaign."

Backers include current and former owners of Champaign Surplus. Dan Epstein says encouraging cloth or canvas bags will help his business.

"Whether it's a few pennies per pag, or 15 cents, or some of the other quotes that were (suggested), every time you do that, there's a cost," he said. "Being able to reduce bags helps all merchants. Certainly from Champaign Surplus' pespective, I know that reduce costs will help us create jobs."

Other supporters include 10 members of the University of Illinois' Students for Environmental Concerns, who displayed pictures of bags littering Boneyard Creek and farm fields. Council member Deb Frank Feinen says a fee shows the city wants to do something about the environment, and set a community standard.

"I'm not looking for a new tax to generate revenue to fill our budget gap," she said. "I'm looking for a disincentive for people to choose plastic or paper bags at the grocery store."

Council member Karen Foster voted against the fee, saying the city shouldn't legislate over a business' right to carry the bags. Foster says the city is 'nickle and diming' people to death, and can't afford another tax. Councilmen Will Kyles and Kyle Harrison also voted it down.

Champaign City Manager Steve Carter says it will likely be summer before a fee amount is decided and set up. Proceeds would go towards an education campaign on recycling.

The vote supporting the fee didn't include an outright ban on paper or plastic bags, which Mayor Don Gerard called 'egregious'.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - February 29, 2012

Hospital: 6 Dead in Southern Ill. Storm

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press and Illinois Public Radio)

Gov. Pat Quinn has activated the State Emergency Operations Center after a tornado left six people dead in the southern Illinois city of Harrisburg, and about a hundred others injured.

The storm has caused heavy damage in Saline and Gallatin counties and more than 12,000 Ameren Illinois customers have lost power.

Quinn toured Harrisburg on Wednesday to survey the damage. Quinn said Illinoisans have to band together "as a family.''

"Those men and women who went to bed last night and lost their lives in this tornado, we pray for their souls and we pray for their families," Quinn said. "I think it's important for us as a family in Illinois to come together and honor their lives and mourn their loss."

His disaster declaration will make recovery resources available to affected areas of Saline County. Quinn's office said earlier Wednesday that the governor would survey the storm damage.

The governor said President Barack Obama called after waking up to news of a disaster in his home state.

Quinn also said he hopes God will bless the "immortal souls'' of those who died. Quinn said Illinoisans have to band together "as a family.''

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency earlier reported that 10 were dead, but the agency said that information was incorrect.

Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson said Harrisburg authorities say they have accounted for everyone and outside search-and-rescue teams have been called off. Thompson said specially trained rescue teams from emergency-response agencies in Charleston, Marion, St. Clair County, Springfield and Urbana were on their way to Harrisburg on Wednesday but have been told to return. She said outside agencies have supplied light poles and nine ambulances, however.

Jennifer Fuller, of Illinois Public Radio, was in front of the Harrisburg Medical Center. Fuller said that when she canvased the city, she saw "entire neighborhoods destroyed." She said she saw some trees split in half next to piles of rubble that used to be homes.

"It's devastating for these people," Fuller reported.

She noted that because the severe storms - it is not yet confirmed if they spun tornadoes - moved through Harrisburg in the early morning, it's possible some people were asleep.

"It's ironic," Fuller said. "Just this week the Illinois Emergency Management Agency was telling people to be ready for storm season in March and to have those weather radios handy."

Harrisburg resident Margaret Shimkus' home was nearly destroyed by the pre-dawn storm that ripped through theregion says she had to run to take shelter in her bathtub. Shimkus described the moment the storm hit at around 5 a.m. Wednesday, recalling how she was awoken by the sound of loud crashing and shattering glass.

Shimkus first tried to get under her bed, but then ran to her bathtub as parts of the building blew apart. The 61-year-old woman said only the walls of her duplex were left standing. Besides a cut on her leg from flying glass, she wasn't seriously hurt. Four other apartments in her complex were destroyed.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg promised that his southern Illinois city will rebuild. He said the community "will make this city stronger.''

Gregg called the tornado "heartbreaking'' and said city officials are doing everything they can to protect citizens. He said the city will make sure everyone is accounted for.

State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) led the General Assembly in observing a moment of silence. Legislators from southern Illinois, including Sen. Gary Forby (D-Benton) and Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), are back in their districts.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) said he will visit southern Illinois areas devastated by the powerful tornado.

"I was saddened to learn of the loss of lives and such violent damage in Harrisburg and other areas of Southern Illinois," Shimkus said in a statement. "My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost loved ones and those who were hurt or lost their homes or businesses."

Severe weather warnings are still pending for parts of southern Illinois that have been pounded by a deadly tornado.

Meteorologist Beverly Poole said the National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky., was still issuing warnings late Wednesday morning.

The storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes struck early Wednesday, violently sweeping across the region as people slept. Poole said the storm system hit locations in all four states, and more than 50 warnings have been issued.

The National Weather Service has given the tornado an EF4 rating. That's the second-strongest rating given to tornadoes.

Sideshow of the storm damage in Harrisburg, Ill. (Courtesy of The Associated Press)

Video of the damage in Harrisburg, Ill. (Courtesy of WSIL-TV)

 

Categories: Environment

AP - Illinois Public Media News - February 28, 2012

US Supreme Court Stays Out of Carp Fight - Again

The U.S. Supreme Court is once again deciding to stay out of the fight over invasive Asian carp.

The high court on Monday shot down an appeal from Michigan and four other Great Lakes states. The states are suing the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Chicago.

The states had wanted the court to order that fish nets be laid out to prevent Asian carp from swimming into Lake Michigan. They also wanted an order saying the Army Corps of Engineers has to hurry up with a plan to isolate carp-infested waterways.

John Sellek, with the Michigan Attorney General's office, said Monday's denial from the justices is disappointing.

"Asian carp are, essentially, right at downtown Chicago," Sellek said. "They are lurking about and about to go into the Great Lakes. And that's something that would be detriment to - not just the other states, but to Illinois, as well."

Sellek says Michigan will now try other legal methods meant to prevent the hungry fish from devouring the Great Lakes ecosystem.

The Army Corps and the state of Illinois have maintained the threat posed by carp is not as drastic as the other states would argue.

Monday's ruling marks the third time Supreme Court justices have opted to stay out of the fight over the spread of Asian carp. The high court had earlier denied emergency requests to close down some Chicago-area waterways that link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

Categories: Environment

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