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The Citizens’ Bulletin

Volume 10, Issue 3 –Fall 2014

In This Issue…

  • Air Quality Forecasts
  • Harmful Algal Blooms and Algal Toxins
  • New LibGuide: Illinois Environmental Law
  • Lincoln Trail Hike
  • In the Community
  • Climate and the Life Cycle of Stuff
  • Nutrients in the Fall
  • In the Garden Tips
  • Plan for Emergencies
  • In the News

Welcome To The Citizens’ Bulletin!

Welcome to the Illinois EPA’s Citizens’ Bulletin. We are pleased to present our electronic environmental newsletter created specifically for the citizens of Illinois. The Citizens’ Bulletin is a component of our ongoing effort to carry out Governor Pat Quinn’s commitment to making state government more responsive to citizens by using technology such as the Internet.

We created this e-newsletter to provide you with useful information, such as Green Tips, a regular feature offering tips and ideas you can use to prevent pollution and protect the environment. Events, another regular feature, will include public hearings, workshops, conferences and events that offer opportunities for you to get involved. A schedule of events will also be available on our website and will be regularly updated. Each issue will include articles about Illinois EPA programs and activities to keep you informed.

We hope that this newsletter provides you with comprehensive news, events, and helpful hints. We welcome your feedback and your ideas of how we may better serve you.

Air Quality Forecasts

Fall Leaves

Illinois EnviroFlash is an online tool that sends air quality forecasts and Air Pollution Action Day alerts directly to a subscriber's email. The program is a partnership between the Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA.


Air quality affects how we live and breathe. Like the weather, it can change from day to day. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color-coded system that classifies air quality from Good to Hazardous. Air Pollution Action Day Alerts are issued when air quality levels over a large area are expected to reach the category Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, or Orange on the AQI, for multiple days.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Algal Toxins

Blue-green algae are microscopic organisms that occur naturally in Illinois lakes and streams. Despite their name, blue-green algae are actually types of bacteria known as cyanobacteria. When certain conditions are present, such as high nutrient and light levels, these organisms can reproduce rapidly. This dense growth of algae is called a "bloom." Blue-green algal blooms can discolor the water or produce floating scums on the surface of the water, especially along shorelines. While blooms can occur at any time of year, they are primarily a concern during the summer months because that is when people are likely to come in contact with them.


What are Harmful Algal Blooms?

While most blue-green algal blooms are not harmful, some can be. Under certain conditions that are not well understood, some blue-green algae are capable of producing algal toxins that could pose a health risk or harm people and animals when exposed to them in large enough quantities (Harmful Algal Blooms, or "HABs").

Is there a Concern about Algal Toxins in Illinois?

While there are many different known algal toxins, the most common one found in Illinois is called microcystin, a known liver-damaging toxin. Adverse health effects could occur when waters exhibiting a blue-green algal bloom are swallowed, come in contact with skin, or when airborne droplets containing toxins are inhaled while swimming, boating, waterskiing, tubing, bathing or showering. Pets are also at risk when allowed to drink or swim in surface water containing a blue-green algal bloom. Health effects can include asthma-like symptoms, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, or nervous system effects depending on the exposure level and type of toxin present in the water.

Monitoring conducted by Illinois EPA from 2005-2008 showed that microcystin was frequently detected in Illinois lakes and streams (50.5% of the samples collected), but concentrations were generally below levels of concern. Unfortunately, monitoring conducted during the 2012 summer drought revealed a different story. (See "2012 Drought and HAB Reconnaissance Monitoring Effort")

What should I do if I see a bloom?

People should use common sense when dealing with algae. It is impossible to tell from a visual inspection whether an algal bloom is toxic. The safest thing to do is to treat every algal bloom as if it could be dangerous.


For more information, visit Illinois EPA's web site.

New LibGuide: Illinois Environmental Law

The new LibGuide was created by Jessica Tieman through the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Spring 2014 semester. It serves as a reference aid for Illinois Statutory Law regarding environmental and pollution regulations, sustainability initiatives, and energy efficiency standards, and includes basics on understanding the legislative process.Separate tabs have been created to discuss information specific to Environmental Regulation (how it is enforced, what it entails, resources), the literal statutes (grouped by location in Illinois Compiled Statutes), and Administrative Agencies (Illinois Government bodies that deal with environmental acts but do not necessarily enforce law). For more information or to explore the web site, visit The University of Illinois, University Library.

Lincoln Trail Hike

Trail Hike

Trail Hike

Following Earth Day in late April, over 700 area Boy Scouts spent the day taking part in the annual Lincoln Trail Hike, named so because hikers retraced the steps of a young Abraham Lincoln as he journeyed from New Salem to Springfield to borrow books. The Lincoln Trail Hike was part of the weekend activities of the 69th Annual Lincoln Pilgrimage, which was hosted by the Abraham Lincoln Council Boy Scouts of America. This marked the 20th year the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has teamed with the Council for the event.

Hikers began their trek between 6 and 9:30 a.m. at the New Salem State Park and finished their 20-mile hike at Stuart Park in Springfield. Scouts were able to walk the path Lincoln walked, along the scenic roadway through Sangamon and Menard Counties. All the while, hikers collect trash along the trail.

Volunteers from the Illinois EPA, as well as the Lt. Governor's Office and other state agencies, donated their time to staff the rest stations along the trail route, where drinking water, restrooms, trash collection bags, and other support are provided for the hikers. Upon completing the hike, Scouts received a "Lincoln Trail Hike & Clean Up" patch from the Agency in recognition of their efforts.

"The volunteers and support from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency help make this hike safer and more meaningful for the Scouts," said Pilgrimage Committee Chairman Dan Usherwood. "Scouting teaches our Scouts to be good stewards of our natural resources. The Illinois EPA's participation emphasizes the importance of our environment and provides our hikers an opportunity to clean up a historic trail."

Waste Management Inc., of Springfield, donates services each year by providing disposal for the trash that is collected. Proceeds from the recyclable items will be returned to the area Boy Scouts Council. American Radio Relay League amateur radio operators provide communications support for the day. Coca Cola provides refreshments, and the Illinois Air National Guard provides a tent and first-aid medical support.

In the Community

Four Science Students Receive Environmental Excellence Awards from Illinois EPA

The Illinois EPA presented Environmental Excellence Awards to four Illinois students at the State Science Fair Exposition. The competition was hosted by the Junior Academy of Science at NIU in DeKalb on Saturday, May 3.

The Environmental Excellence Award focuses on projects that promote and enhance the protection and care of the environment. Four projects were selected for recognition, two in each division: Junior (grades 7 and 8) and Senior (grades 9-12). The winners are:


Rachel Traisman
Niles West High School in Skokie
Project Title: The Synthesis of Faujasite Zeolite as a Novel Method of Oil Spill Treatment
Project Category: Environmental Science

Dexter Redenius
Southeastern Senior High School in Augusta
Project Title: Second Generation Biofuels: A Comparison of Agricultural Biomasses
Project Category: Environmental Science


Aditi Kumar
Unity Point School in Carbondale
Project Title: Butt What? The Effect of Cigarette Butt Leachate on Growth of Microorganisms
Project Category: Environmental Science

Pulkit Chauhan
Gower Middle School in Burr Ridge
Project Title: Cleaning Up Oil Spills with Ferrafluids
Project Category: Environmental Science

The Illinois Junior Academy of Science provides students with insight into the problems and methods of thinking that are particular to the scientist but applicable to other occupations. The curriculum includes information concerning new investigations and discoveries in science and an understanding of the science-produced equipment used.

Criteria for the Environmental Excellence Award include issues such as addressing the prevention of pollution, the remediation of air, land or water, or analyzing the effect of pollution on our environment. The Illinois EPA provided the judges. Students whose projects were recognized for the Environmental Excellence Award received a padfolio, a plaque and certificate.

Climate and the Life Cycle of Stuff

Making smart choices about what we buy, how we use it, and how we dispose of it can make a big difference in the amount of waste we produce and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our consumption. The manufacture, distribution and use of the goods and food we rely on in our daily lives-as well as management of the resulting waste-all require energy. This energy mostly comes from fossil fuels, which are the largest global source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The 2009 report, Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices (PDF) (98pp, 1.5MB ++ About PDF), shows that approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. This includes the extraction or harvest of materials and food, production and transport of goods, provision of services, reuse of materials, recycling, composting, and disposal. The report also indicates the following:

  • 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the provision of goods produced within the United States.
  • The provision of food contributes another 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Traditional "waste" management represents 1 to 5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

In every stage of the life cycle, we can reduce our impact. Click on the Life Cycle of Stuff to learn about the greenhouse gas emissions that result from each step in a product's life cycle. Find out what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and learn how to reduce your impact at every stage of the life cycle.

#ActOnClimate tips page:
Provided by the U.S. EPA:

Nutrients in the Fall

Fall is the best time to apply compost or manure to help increase the biological activity (and associated benefits) within healthy soil. Healthy soil promotes healthy plants and reduces the potential for pest infestations. The fall is also the best time to apply fertilizers to promote early seed germination and deep, healthy root systems. In addition, you may want to plant a cover crop in the winter, such as winter oats and/or rye to help smother weeds, capture residual nutrients from fertilizer and hold them in the soil profile and to help prevent erosion.

Anyone with a garden, flower bed or yard can save money by practicing nutrient management, which is the wise use of nutrient resources for an intended purpose. Soil tests can help to identify the existing soil fertility so that the amount of fertilizer truly needed can be determined; thus saving money and preventing over fertilizing. If a soil test has not been done in the last three years or so, there are probably too many nutrients being applied that are wasted or even worse, possibly lost through water movement. The soil should be tested at least every three or four years.

Farmers are also encouraged to practice nutriendt management, which includes the following:

  • oly applying enough nutrients to grow the intended crop
  • using conservation tillage or no-till to reduce soil erosion
  • switching to crops that require fewer nutrients, or using crop rotations that include legumes or winter cover crops that can help provide a different source of nutrients
  • using manures or compost from maures or other sources to procide at least part of the nutrients the cop needs
  • or it could mean using variable rates of nutrient applicatiopn or changing from fall to spring applications fso fewer nutrients are lost over the winter.

By reducing soil erosion and managing the nutrients applied on crop fields, lawns and gardens, the amount of nutrients that may be lost are reduced from water runoff and through the transport of nutrients attached to soil carried by water into our lakes, rivers and streams. Once nutrients (and soil) get into the water bodies it can be very expensive to remove, and accumulation can cause dramatic changes in a waterbody. Preventing nutrient loss at the source will help keep water bills lower. Dredging soil sediment from a lake or having to buy land and build another lake because of reduced lake capacity can make current water bill seem like a real bargain. Also, grocery store costs can be reduced by producing food more efficient with nutrient management.

Nutrient management can also help to reduce the need for additional regulations on water quality. Regulations and restrictions are put into place to protect resources, public safety and many other reasons, which can also be costly to administer. Nutrient management can help to create jobs in the area of local food systems including marketing and distribution, soil testing services and composting businesses, just to name a few. In addition, it helps to lessen the negative effects on wildlife and ecosystems that are already stressed due to a multitude of reasons, and it helps to relieve the implications on recreational activities like fishing and water skiing or public health.

For more information on nutrient issues, visit Illinois EPA's web site on excess nutrients or U.S. EPA's web site on nutrient pollution

For more information on gardening, visit the University of Illinois Extension's Master Gardener Course Hot Links ( It provides information on grasses, houseplants, vegetable gardening, landscaping and weed identification resources. It also contains a wealth of knowledge on botany, soil, pests and disease, ornamentals, fruits, environmental concerns, and other related links. More information on fertilizers and pesticides can be found online at Illinois EPA's web site under Lake Notes

In The Garden Tips

Provided by the U.S. EPA

Lawn and Garden

A beautiful and healthy lawn is good for our environment. It can resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests. Pesticides can be effective, but need to be used according to the directions on the label and should not be relied on as a quick-fix to lawn problems. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Develop healthy soil. Make sure your soil has the right pH balance, key nutrients, and good texture. You can buy easy-to-use soil analysis kits at hardware stores or contact your local County Cooperative Extension Service for a soil analysis.
  • Choose the right grass for your climate. If your area gets very little rain, don't plant a type of grass that needs a lot of water. Select grass seed that is well suited to your climate and other growing conditions such as the amount of sunlight and rain your lawn receives. Over-seed your lawn each Fall by spreading seeds on top of the lawn. A thicker lawn helps to crowd out weeds. Your local County Extension Service can advise you on which grasses grow best in your area.
  • Longer is better. Make sure the lawn mower blades are sharp. Grass that is slightly long makes a strong, healthy lawn with few pest problems. Weeds have a hard time taking root and growing when grass is around 2½ to 3½ inches for most types of grass.
  • Water Early. It is time to water if footprint impressions stay in the lawn and do not spring back. Water early in the morning and only for short periods for time so the soil may absorb the water. Longer grass has stronger roots and retains water better.
  • Correct thatch buildup. Thatch is a layer of dead plant materials between the grass blades and the soil. When thatch gets too thick, deeper than 3/4 of an inch, water and nutrients are prevented from getting into the soil and reaching the roots of the grass. Overusing synthetic fertilizer can create heavy layer of thatch, and some kinds of grass are prone to thatch buildup.
  • Recycle grass. Don't pick up the grass clippings after you mow. Clippings will return nutrients and moisture to the soil. Consider buying a mulching lawn mower. This will cut the grass clippings finer and blow them into the lawn.
  • Let your lawn breathe. Once a year, remove small plugs of earth to allow air and water to aerate the grass roots.
  • Invite a few weeds and insects into you garden. Think of you lawn as a small piece of nature where pests have their place. Often, nature provides its own pest control in the form of birds or other insects that feed on the insects we consider nuisances.
  • Use manual tools. Tools that don't require electric or gasoline engines are especially handy for small yards or small jobs. There are hand tools available that will meet a wide variety of lawn and garden needs, like lightweight, quiet, easy-to-use reel push mowers that generate no emissions.

Do you use pressure-treated lumber on your deck, fence, post or gazebo? Learn about CCA (chromated copper arsenate), a wood preservative that contains arsenic, and learn about alternatives to CCA.

Using and Storing Gasoline

In the summer, lots of portable containers are used to store and transport fuels for lawnmowers, chainsaws and recreational vehicles. These portable containers can emit hydrocarbons; in addition, spills can leak into ground water. Here are some tips to follow to reduce these concerns:

  • Use Proper Containers Use only containers approved by a nationally recognized testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Containers should be fitted with a spout to allow pouring without spilling and to minimize the generation of vapors. Always open and use gasoline containers in a well-ventilated area away from children and animals.
  • Fill Cautiously Fuel equipment on a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt and use a funnel and/or spout to prevent spilling or splashing when fueling lawn and recreational equipment and always fuel outside where there is adequate ventilation to disperse the vapors
  • Store Carefully Store as little gasoline as possible and be certain to keep your gasoline container properly sealed. Store the gasoline in a cool, dry place and never in direct sunlight. Store at ground level to minimize the danger of falling and spilling. Do not store gasoline in a car trunk. There is a threat of explosion from heat and impact. Do not store gasoline in your basement.
  • Avoid Spills Avoid spilling gasoline on the ground, especially near wells. If a small spill occurs use kitty litter, saw dust or an absorbent towel to soak up the spill, then dispose of it properly
  • Dispose Properly Do not dispose of gasoline down the drain, into surface water, onto the ground, or in the trash. You should check with your town concerning using your local household hazardous waste collection for safe disposal of excess or old gasoline.

Use Pesticides Safely

If you decide that the best solution to your pest problem is a pesticide, follow these tips when selecting and using a garden product:

  • Identify the pest problem
  • Find the product that solves the problem
  • Buy the right amount for your needs
  • Read the label carefully and use the product the right way
  • Pay attention to warnings
  • Prevent harm to the environment - never pour lawn and garden products down a drain
  • Store and dispose of pesticides safely.
  • Learn more pesticide safety tips.

"Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings." This Spanish/English brochure outlines the ten most important steps you can take to protect children from accidental poisonings associated with the presence of lead and pesticides in the home. A "must" for parents. Learn why children may be especially sensitive to pesticides.

More information:

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency offers a Ready Illinois web site that provides a wealth of information regarding the following: emergency preparedness, including types of hazards, making a plan, and building an emergency kit; after a disaster that includes recover, financial issues and volunteer opportunities; local resources; and current issues. There is even a page that offer tips for safe vacations and how to prepare your pets.

In the News

Fall Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events

The remaining household hazardous waste collections scheduled for the fall of 2014 are included below. Through household hazardous waste collections, citizens are given the opportunity to safely dispose of unused or leftover household products commonly found in homes, basements and garages.

Each one-day collection is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the specified Saturday:

  • September 27, 2014 Monticello, 904 Allerton Road, Piatt County
  • October 4, 2014 Lombard, Village of Lombard Public Works, 1051 South Hammerschmidt Avenue, DuPage County
  • October 11, 2014 Lincoln, County Fairgrounds, 1408 Short 11th Street, Logan County
  • October 18, 2014 Oregon, 421 West Pines Road, Ogle County

In addition to the above one-day collections, the Illinois EPA also continues to support the following long-term collection facilities:

  • Naperville, Fire Station #4, 1971 Brookdale Road, DuPage County Hours: Saturdays 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM, Sundays 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM, Phone: 630-420-6095
  • Rockford, Rock River Reclamation District, 3333 Kishwaukee, Winnebago County Hours: Saturdays 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM, Sundays Noon - 4:00 PM, Phone: 815-987-5570
  • Chicago, Goose Island, 1150 North Branch, Cook County Hours: Tuesdays 7:00 AM - Noon, Thursdays 2:00 AM - 7:00 PM, and First Saturday of every month 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM, Phone: 312-744-7672
  • Gurnee, 1311 N. Estes Street, Lake County *Other collections are held through the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO). Contact SWALCO by phone: 847-336-9340 or website: for more information.

For more information on household hazardous waste collections, visit the Illinois EPA's Houshold Hazardous Waste page.

Clean Water Initiative

Governor Quinn first launched the $1 billion Illinois Clean Water Initiative in his 2012 State of the State Address to help local governments rebuild or repair clean water infrastructure. These projects ensure that facilities are being upgraded to protect our streams and rivers, our drinking water supplies and the environment as a whole. In July, Governor Quinn signed legislation that doubles Clean Water Initiative funding to $2 billion and expands the program to include stormwater management and treatment projects. To date, more than $800 million in wastewater and drinking water loans have been awarded under the Illinois Clean Water Initiative. To learn more about the Illinois Clean Water Initiative, visit Below are some of the recent projects announced.



Environmental Contribution

Do you have a local story of an outstanding group or individual that has contributed to a healthy environment that you would like to share with us? If so, please email us using the form below. If you prefer, you can fax, mail or call us with the following information.

Outstanding Person or Group

Submitting Person or Group

Please provide an email address or telephone number so we may contact you for further details if necessary.

Send eMail

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
1021 N. Grand Ave. East
PO Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
Phone: (217) 558-7198
Fax: (217) 785-8346
Email: Kristi Morris