Illinois Public Media News
Officials at Archer Daniels Midland's massive Decatur ethanol plant are showing off an 84 million dollar project to study a way to keep more carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere.
ADM is the first of seven sites around the nation to begin the process of storing more than a million tons of CO2 deep underground rather than letting it escape into the air. Researchers point to CO2 as a key factor in global warming.
Illinois State Geological Survey director Robert Finley says the experiment is beginning with a test well dug more than a mile into the rock formations under the plant to see how well it can handle the injected gas.
"With a relatively pure source of CO2 coming from ADM's ethanol fermentation facility here in Decatur combined with excellent geology suitable for testing carbon sequestration immediately below the Decatur area and in fact throughout central Illinois, that gives us an opportunity to carry out this test here at Decatur," Finley said.
It'll be another year before ADM will actually inject large amounts of CO2. Finley believes the Illinois Basin can hold many times more carbon dioxide than ADM, the proposed FutureGen coal plant and other industries in central Illinois can produce.
The debate over cleanup plans at the 5th and Hill gas plant site continued Tuesday night during a Champaign City Council study session. City Council members generally support the plan --- but only up to a point.
Some neighbors of the old manufactured gas plant site say Ameren's year-long multi-million dollar cleanup plan fails to address contaminants leaking into groundwater that may appear in flooded basements. But project manager Brian Martin says follow-up testing at the request of those neighbors has found no sign of toxic chemicals in yards or basements. He says testing in basements, of sump pump water, and soil vapors turned up nothing to cause concern about exposure.
The Illinois EPA is backing Ameren's cleanup plan. But Claudia Lennhoff of Champaign County Healthcare Consumers says the agency needs to conduct additional testing to see if toxic vapors are escaping from groundwater into basements. She says other state environmental agencies conduct vaporization testing, and the Illinois EPA should do the same.
While generally backing the cleanup plan, City Council members put off a vote directing staff to starting planning for the eventual redevelopment of the 5th and Hill site. Many members say they want to see how the cleanup goes, before committing the city to anything. Mayor Jerry Schweighart says "there are too many unknowns at this time".
State forestry officials will conduct a controlled burn of prairie grass at the Newport Chemical Depot in western Indiana, where 275,000 gallons of deadly nerve agent was destroyed under an international treaty.
The Indiana Division of Forestry will burn about 336 acres of native prairie grass Friday or Saturday, depending on the weather, at the depot about 20 miles north of Terre Haute. The agency is also holding workshops on fire management. Officials say the controlled burns create habitats attractive to wildlife. The Depot has maintained the prairie for the past 15 years.
Destruction of the VX nerve agent stored at Newport was completed last August.
Everyone is spending much more on energy these days, and the University of Illinois is no exception. Curbing the cost is just one goal of a new Office of Sustainability on the Urbana campus. It's meant to draft and supervise new conservation efforts, but also to reduce the amount of pollution the University creates - whether it's exhaust from Abbott Power Plant or old computers and other electronic waste. The office's first director is Richard Warner, a wildlife ecology professor and formerly an administrator in the College of ACES. He tells AM 580's Tom Rogers that his first priority is simply to take stock of all the programs already in place.
Bill Hammack has been doing a lot of thinking about east-central Illinois' water supply. You may know him as WILL's "Engineer Guy," bringing complex scientific issues closer to home. All this week, Bill is taking a look at how we use water, how much we have and how we manage it for the future. The different ways we use water at home may seem obvious - but in Part 4, Bill finds some ways we may never have suspected.
Experts predict that in the next 20 to 30 years, a growing United States will need 30 to 60 percent more water. Growth will be even more explosive in other parts of the world, and the need for clean, usable water may someday be a staggering political issue. AM 580's Tom Rogers spoke with University of Illinois professor Mark Shannon, who's watching that potential crisis unfold.
Eating organic food is not only considered healthy -- some companies believe selling it can be very profitable. Once limited to farmers' markets and small shops, organic food is now sold by some of America's largest companies. Organic milk, meat, fruits and vegetables are earning some retailers millions of dollars, others a lot less. AM 580's Terrell Starr talked with retailers of all sizes to discuss the competitiveness of this growing industry.
With the proposed FutureGen power plant on hiatus, it's unclear which path so-called clean coal research will take next. FutureGen was to turn coal into hydrogen before burning it to generate electricity, and to inject the resulting carbon dioxide deep into the ground - all at one single plant near Mattoon. But as AM 580's Tom Rogers reports, other projects using portions of that technology are already taking root.
At your home, chances are your TV, computer and other electronic gear were made overseas. That's because it's cheaper to make them there. And it's cheaper to get rid of old electronics overseas. Someday, your old cell phone or CD player might end up right back where it started: in China. University of Illinois journalism student Ted Land visited a Chinese city where electronic waste is shipped by the thousands of tons. Pollution from that waste is threatening the health of people who live there. He submitted this story for The Environment Report.
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