WBEZ | pollution http://www.wbez.org/tags/pollution Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Who Will Pay for Michigan's Orphaned, Contaminated Sites? http://www.wbez.org/news/who-will-pay-michigans-orphaned-contaminated-sites-114478 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/image003.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Michigan has&nbsp;<a href="http://www.audgen.michigan.gov/finalpdfs/13_14/r761021714.pdf">more than 280 contaminated sites&nbsp;</a>that are &ldquo;orphans.&rdquo; That means the company that made the mess no longer exists and the state has to deal with it.</p><p>But Michigan is running out of money to tackle these environmental problems. That was not good news for Antrim County, home to one of the largest contaminated sites in the country. State management of an underground plume of trichloroethylene (TCE) has been crucial here for years and will be needed in the future.</p><p><strong>A lack of state funding to clean up the plume is causing concern</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s been more than a decade since residents like Ruth Ann Clark went onto city water because of the TCE contamination. Her water comes from Mancelona, about eight miles away from her house.</p><p>Clark has a small farm with llamas and donkeys. She says she spends more than $100 a month on water. She doesn&rsquo;t know if the TCE plume has reached her land yet, but she&rsquo;s not worried because she has clean water.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been okay,&rdquo; she says with a smile.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s not okay for everyone in Antrim County. In fact, millions more dollars must be spent to keep all her neighbors safe. Where that money will come from is a critical question for this community.</p><p><strong>An expanding legacy of pollution</strong></p><p>Not far from Clark&rsquo;s home is Summit Village, part of Shanty Creek Resort. The resort is one of the main drivers of economic growth in this area. It was purchased in 2007 and the new owners say they&rsquo;ve put another $15 million into it.</p><p>Realtor Donna Gundle-Krieg says a lot of money has been spent in Summit, one of three villages in Shanty Creek, where there&rsquo;s a hotel and conference center.</p><p>&ldquo;This is probably the area with the most expensive homes,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>But homes here will need to hook up to city water soon, because the TCE plume is moving towards them.</p><p>Gundle-Krieg has a vacant lot listed in Summit Village for $10,000. She doesn&rsquo;t expect to see a house on it anytime soon. She thinks it will be bought by someone who wants the beach access that goes with it on Lake Bellaire.</p><p>There is some confusion about exactly what is happening with the water. Gundle-Krieg says she frequently comes across homeowners who say they weren&rsquo;t told anything about the plume when they bought property and ask her what the situation is.</p><p>Property owners between Mancelona and Bellaire have this trouble today because of a degreaser used to clean machinery 50 years ago.</p><p>Herb Tipton got a job at Mount Clemens Metal Products in the 1960s.</p><p>&ldquo;The cleaning fluid was kind of a last resort,&rdquo; Tipton says. &ldquo;It was expensive.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;<br />He says what they did use, they poured down the drain.</p><p>&ldquo;But I don&rsquo;t think anybody really knew the after-effects,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;&#39;Course, that&rsquo;s true all over the world.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Michigan comes up short for clean water</strong></p><p>The TCE plume spreading across Antrim County might be the largest in the country, contaminating trillions of gallons of water.<br />&nbsp;<br />That&rsquo;s too expensive to clean up, so the state has spent $18 million to keep people from drinking the stuff. More will be needed to get clean water to everyone who will eventually need it. That&rsquo;s why community leaders were surprised in 2014 when they were told there wasn&rsquo;t enough money to extend more water lines.</p><p>They went to Lansing and proposed the state spend another $2 million to expand and upgrade the city water system. The state offered $500,000.</p><p>The idea that the state couldn&rsquo;t afford to protect drinking water in Antrim County sent shockwaves through the community last year.</p><p>Dean Branson, with Three Lakes Association, says the state&rsquo;s ability to manage this problem is critical. Without it, he says property becomes worthless since nobody will build a home on a lot that might not have clean water one day.</p><p>&ldquo;You aren&rsquo;t going to pay anything for that lot,&rdquo; Branson says. &rdquo;You aren&rsquo;t even going to pay your taxes. You&rsquo;re basically going to let it go back to the bank.&rdquo;</p><p>Branson helped work out a novel solution last spring. It involves the county sharing some of the costs of the next phase of work on the water system. Local governments seldom finance this kind of project. It&rsquo;s usually left to the state or federal government.</p><p>The agreement was not easy to get. Some county commissioners said the state would find the money one way or another and voted against the plan. County officials insisted this is the only time they&rsquo;ll spend money on this problem.</p><p>The agreement will protect everyone for a few years before more work is needed. Dean Branson says he&rsquo;s confident the state will be there to help.</p><p><strong>Who will pay?</strong></p><p>That&rsquo;s because at a meeting this summer, a division chief from the Department of Environmental Quality told a room full of people that the state will protect their drinking water. On videotape, Bob Wagner said if anyone asks the DEQ whether it&rsquo;s safe to buy property in Antrim County, the answer will be &ldquo;yes.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s safe. It&rsquo;s fine,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There is no risk. It&rsquo;s all managed. That&rsquo;s our message.&rdquo;</p><p>Where the money will come from to keep that commitment is the question.</p><p>More than 280 contaminated sites were identified in Michigan in 2014 that still need work, including the TCE plume coming from Mancelona, and there is no more money to start new projects. In fact, Wagner says the state might have to pull back on groundwater monitoring at some of these sites next year.</p><p>The pool of money that has been used for this work in recent decades came from voter approved bonds. Voters have agreed to let Michigan borrow more than $2 billion since 1988 for an array of environmental initiatives.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Finding a new long-term funding source is one of the goals laid out in Michigan&rsquo;s new water strategy, a comprehensive approach to a variety of water-related issues. Conversations about how that could happen are just beginning in Lansing.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/who-will-pay-michigans-orphaned-contaminated-sites#stream/0" target="_blank"><em> via Michigan Radio</em></a></p></p> Thu, 14 Jan 2016 10:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/who-will-pay-michigans-orphaned-contaminated-sites-114478 Counting trees in the Amazon Rainforest http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-12-14/counting-trees-amazon-rainforest-114162 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ricardo%20Funari.jpg" title="(Photo: Flickr/Ricardo Funari)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/237561947&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">Trees in the Amazon by the numbers</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">More than 15,000 species of trees exist in the Amazon rainforest. Recently, a team of 150 scientists surveyed the status of these 15,000 trees and found that more half were under threat. But the news actually isn&rsquo;t all bad. Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon are down 75 percent since 2005. The team of researchers also credits expanded protected areas for exceeding their best case scenarios going into the project.We talk with the two lead authors of the report: Dr. Hans ter Steege from the Netherlands and Dr. Nigel Pitman from Chicago&rsquo;s Field Museum.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><strong>Guests: </strong></p><ul><li style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><em>Dr. Hans ter Steege is a researcher at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands. </em></li><li style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><em>Dr. Nigel Pitman is a researcher at the <a href="http://twitter.com/@fieldmuseum">Field Musuem</a>.</em></li></ul></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/237562393&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">Tackling pollution in China</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Last week, for the first time since it created it created an emergency alert system for pollution, the Chinese government issued a &ldquo;red alert.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s the highest level and meant that schools were closed, and things like barbecuing outdoors were banned. The Chinese government has recently been more forthcoming about the country&rsquo;s pollution problems. We&rsquo;ll take a look at how the Chinese government has been managing the country&#39;s environmental problems with Judith Shapiro, the author of &#39;China&#39;s Environmental Challenges&#39;.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><strong>Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-be1ef709-a290-4a91-716f-4d2754eff720">Judith Shapiro is the author of several books on China, including, most recently </span>China&#39;s Environmental Challenges. &nbsp;She teaches environmental politics at the School of International Service at <a href="http://twitter.com/AmericanU">American University</a>.</em></p></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/237563107&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 22px; background-color: rgb(255, 244, 244);">Evaluating the Paris Climate Agreement</span></p><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">There were high expectations for the UN climate negotiations. A coalition emerged to push for a strong deal. The so called &ldquo;high ambition coalition&rdquo; included more than 100 countries, including the US. But going into the final hours there were still big differences on how to pay to mitigate climate change and even what the overall goal should be. The high ambition countries wanted to see the overall goal change from global rise of 2 degrees to a more aggressive 1.5 degree rise. We sort out the conclusion of the COP21, the UN climate summit in Paris, with Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law Policy Center.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><strong>Guest:</strong>&nbsp;<em><span id="docs-internal-guid-be1ef709-a292-1945-bb5b-a51edb5a6fe6">Howard Learner is the Executive Director of the Environmental Law Policy Institute. </span></em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 14 Dec 2015 15:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-12-14/counting-trees-amazon-rainforest-114162 Residents in Little Village worry about pollution from Hellmann's plant expansion http://www.wbez.org/news/residents-little-village-worry-about-pollution-hellmanns-plant-expansion-113414 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/15058048097_027327821b_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In May, the Chicago City Council approved an expansion to the Hellmann&rsquo;s plant in Little Village. Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said Hellmann&rsquo;s parent company, Unilever, plans to donate land to a nearby school, Zapata Elementary.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s some significant community benefits,&rdquo; said Munoz. &ldquo;As a result of the 40 to 60 jobs being created.&rdquo;</p><p>But it&rsquo;s the plant&rsquo;s proximity to the elementary school that worries Kimberly Wasserman. She&rsquo;s with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. She&rsquo;s concerned about the additional pollution that could come with extra diesel trucks traveling through the neighborhood. Wasserman said there&rsquo;s another option, if Unilever wants to take it on.</p><p>&ldquo;Changing the dirty diesel to a system that doesn&rsquo;t pollute,&rdquo; said Wasserman, who noted other area companies have retrofitted their vehicles. &ldquo;Or ones that pollute very little.&rdquo;</p><p>There&rsquo;s no word on whether Unilever will do that. Along with Hellmann&rsquo;s, Ben &amp; Jerry&rsquo;s, Dove and Lipton among the company&rsquo;s brands. Unilever did not respond to requests for comment.</p><p>An air quality monitor to test pollution levels was set up in the area for a two-week period in September. The results will be ready in January.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/yolandanews" target="_blank">@yolandanews&nbsp;</a></em></p></p> Mon, 19 Oct 2015 18:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/residents-little-village-worry-about-pollution-hellmanns-plant-expansion-113414 Americans throw out way more trash than we previously thought http://www.wbez.org/news/americans-throw-out-way-more-trash-we-previously-thought-113283 <p><div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The%20Old%20Dominion%20landfill%20in%20Virginia..jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="The Old Dominion landfill in Virginia. (Bill McChesney/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)" /></div><p>Americans dumped 262 million tonnes of municipal trash into landfills in 2012,<a href="http://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2804.epdf?referrer_access_token=vBBpOmIS7BfyU58gr65JXdRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0Ni8iICE5bSShQpx-7ma0VMYyJsFCzOpM4AWZs4bN-uLqLZCH6old7GJesi_CI-kLp-r6ZDZk5wDC6tRA3GAK1ehubP857G2steuu1Enu-9pv4y7x4aZhVLoxzRyhDWM5o_DaSRdI2uGxOTWbzKCCAa" target="_blank">according to a new study</a>&nbsp;published recently in<em> Nature Climate Change</em>. That&#39;s more than double the EPA estimate for that same year.</p></div><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s metric tonnes,&rdquo; says engineer Jon Powell, an author on the study, &ldquo;If we&#39;re thinking US short tons, it&#39;s about 289 million tons.&rdquo;</p><p>Powell tallied up his numbers on trash using census data, Department of Commerce data and other business activity information. He also set out to estimate the amount of methane &mdash; a noxious greenhouse gas &mdash; generated by Americans&rsquo; waste.</p><p>Stinky trash decomposing in landfills is full of organic material being broken down by bacteria. This decomposition creates methane. The EPA requires landfills of a certain size to put in engineered systems to capture and destroy the methane. However, according to&nbsp;Powell, the systems aren&rsquo;t always performing as well as they could.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;That difference that we found between sites that are closed and sites that are open was about 17 percentage points. So essentially what that number tells us is that there&#39;s some extra room for us to improve the way that we&#39;re collecting gas&nbsp;at our open sites,&rdquo; Powell says, adding, &ldquo;Let&#39;s say a site is generating 2,000 cubic feet of landfill gas every minute. If we&#39;re only collecting ...&nbsp;50&nbsp;percent, we&#39;re leaving about 2.5 megawatts of electricity equivalents really on the table.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Landfills get a bad rap, but Robin Nagle from the New York City Department of Sanitation, and author of the book &ldquo;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Picking-Up-Streets-Sanitation-Workers/dp/0374534276" target="_blank">Picking Up</a>,&rdquo; says landfills should be more celebrated.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If we still had open dumps, cities would be very difficult places to live,&rdquo; Nagle says.&nbsp;&ldquo;[The invention of landfills] was a revolutionary change, although not one that&#39;s generally celebrated. Although it should be.&rdquo;</p><p>A little known fact of American&rsquo;s relationship with trash, is how many of our cities are built on top of landfill.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We built a lot of [New York] city on top of garbage. Quite literally. Approximately&nbsp;20 percent of the larger metropolitan region is built on fill,&rdquo; Nagle says, adding, &ldquo;[That&#39;s] fully 33&nbsp;percent of Manhattan south of 14th Street. So we&#39;re walking on trash pretty much every day.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Sanitation is, in my very strongly argued opinion, the most important uniformed force on the streets of the city,&rdquo; Nagle adds.&nbsp;&ldquo;If sanitation is not there, we don&#39;t really have a city that we can&nbsp;live in.&rdquo;</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-10-11/americans-throw-out-way-more-trash-we-previously-thought" target="_blank">via PRI&#39;s Science Friday</a></em></p></p> Mon, 12 Oct 2015 10:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/americans-throw-out-way-more-trash-we-previously-thought-113283 EPA pushes for 'smart thermostats' as way to limit pollution http://www.wbez.org/news/epa-pushes-smart-thermostats-way-limit-pollution-113254 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_800640016224.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made an impassioned push Thursday for homeowners to adopt Wi-Fi-enabled &quot;smart thermostats&quot; as a way to limit carbon pollution and improve public health.</p><p>Besides noting the devices save consumers money, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy cast the technology in grander terms, saying it offered an easy way for people to &quot;stand up&quot; and meet &quot;our moral responsibility&quot; to do something about the smog that leads to climate change, premature deaths and asthma attacks.</p><p>&quot;Even if you don&#39;t care about the climate or believe the science &mdash; which we can argue about later &mdash; do it anyways. Just humor me,&quot; she said to laughter and applause at an appearance in&nbsp;Chicago. &quot;You know why? Because you&#39;re going to save money. ... But let&#39;s not forget that behind that saving money are thousands of lives.&quot;</p><p>McCarthy spoke at an event launching the nation&#39;s largest incentives program to encourage the use of the technology. Under the program, utility companies in northern Illinois have joined together to offer homeowners rebates of up to $120, about half the cost of the devices, which allow users to control cooling and heating programs from their smartphones, tablets and computers.</p><p>The goal is to get 1 million of the thermostats installed in northern Illinois homes within the next five years. The rebate applies specifically to Nest and ecobee thermostats. <a href="https://youtu.be/CmvX6YgAqMI?t=7s" target="_blank">Companies including Honeywell also make Wi-Fi-equipped thermostats.</a></p><p>It is considered smart technology because besides being linked to wireless Internet service, the thermostats &quot;learn&quot; costumer behavior and adjust settings accordingly. Motion sensors detect when someone is home and automatically dial back heating and AC usage when no one is home.</p><p>Most people already have traditional programmable thermostats. But studies have shown only about half of users actually program them because of poor design and complicated settings. Commonwealth Edison, the electric utility for&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;and northern Illinois, found in a study that its customers were wasting about 38 percent of their cooling expense as a result.</p><p>The new generation of smart thermostats that have emerged in the past few years offer a simplified interface via apps for smartphones and other mobile devices. They also compile a trove of data and present it back to customers in a monthly report with suggestions on how to save more.</p><p>If the Illinois program reaches its installation goal, it could capture $80 million to $120 million in customer savings and eliminate 700,000 metric tons of carbon pollution a year, said Howard Lerner, director of the Environmental Law &amp; Policy Center, which pushed for the program.</p><p>The average user can save about $130 a year on bills, Lerner said. Combined with the rebate, that means the device could pay for itself in as little as a year.</p></p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/epa-pushes-smart-thermostats-way-limit-pollution-113254 Hawks on the rise http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hawks-rise-109889 <p><p><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/hawks/#/page1" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bird%20TOPPER.jpg" title="" /></a></p><p><em>Artwork by Chicago-based artist <a href="http://dianasudyka.com/">Diana Sudyka</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/140433257&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curious City podcast includes a story about the resurgence of Cooper&#39;s Hawks in Chicago. It starts at 4 minutes, 45 seconds into the program.&nbsp;(Subscribe via&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes&nbsp;</a>or&nbsp;<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)&nbsp;</em></p><p>This story about hawks was a long time coming for Carole Zemont of Chicago&rsquo;s Norwood Park neighborhood. Carole thinks she&rsquo;s &ldquo;genetically predisposed&rdquo; to be interested in birds, after growing up watching them at the bird feeder her mother put up in their backyard.</p><p>That lifelong interest &mdash; as well as a recent hawk sighting of hers &mdash; led Carole to ask Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is anybody studying the increasing hawk activity in Chicago&rsquo;s neighborhoods?</em></p><p>Her question covers several topics, including the people on the lookout for hawks, but we thought we owed it to Carole to suss out whether &mdash; in fact &mdash; there&rsquo;s a local population of hawks on the rise. While tracking this down, we came across a bit of a wildlife conservation success story.</p><p><strong>(Chicken) hawks on the increase</strong></p><p>Observant bird-watchers like Carole suspect there are more hawks in the area, but have professional researchers taken note, too?</p><p>Well, there are several local researchers who study and document the goings-on of wild critters in our urban and suburban environment, but when it comes to studying hawks specifically, we can turn up only one: Mason Fidino of the Urban Wildlife Institute. Founded in 2009, the Institute&rsquo;s part of Chicago&rsquo;s Lincoln Park Zoo.</p><p>For the first part of Carole&rsquo;s question, does Fidino&rsquo;s work show that there is an increased hawk population in Chicago? &nbsp;&ldquo;Yes! It&rsquo;s a pretty resounding yes,&rdquo; he says. Fidino is recreating a historic bird count that was conducted in Lincoln Park from 1897 to 1903, and he&rsquo;s able to compare current bird populations with this century-old data. One hawk in particular stands out in Fidino&rsquo;s studies: the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk, which he describes as the &ldquo;most abundant,&rdquo; frequently seen bird of prey in Lincoln Park. This is quite a change from the historic study, where the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk &ldquo;was not seen whatsoever.&rdquo;</p><p>These birds were once widely viewed as a menace and even hunted in the past. Nicknamed &ldquo;chicken hawks,&rdquo; they were despised as chicken thieves.</p><p>Fidino points me to the historical record, where we can find sentiments from people like Alfred O. Gross, a man who eventually became a respected ornithologist. In 1906 Gross conducted a bird census in Illinois. He described the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk as a &ldquo;handsome robber&rdquo; with a &ldquo;perverted taste for chicken.&rdquo;<a href="http://www.thinglink.com/scene/502929837053181952" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Cooper's Hawk inline image.jpg" style="height: 443px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Rendering of a Cooper's Hawk, otherwise known as a Chicken Hawk, by Chicago artist Diana Sudyka." /></a></p><p>Later, the <a href="http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/chemicals/ddt-brief-history-status.htm" target="_blank">pesticide DDT </a>also damaged their population. Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks mostly eat other birds, so they would have ingested all of the DDT concentrated in their prey animals. The pesticide caused eggshells to thin, and they would crack under the weight of the large birds. The Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk was even on Illinois&rsquo; endangered species list from 1977 through 1997.</p><p>Eventually, human interference loosened: We stopped shooting &ldquo;chicken hawks,&rdquo; we banned DDT, and, according to Fidino, the hawks came back.</p><p><strong>How easy is it to see one?</strong></p><p>Mason Fidino says you can find hawks in the city if you look for them &mdash;especially Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks. &ldquo;Often enough you&rsquo;ll see hawks circling around,&rdquo; he says, adding you can also spot them perched on tree branches. Fidino advises curious residents to &ldquo;spend some time on a weekend, take a walk out in a park. You should be able to see a bird of prey or two.&rdquo;</p><p>Fidino says he sometimes even sees hawks hunting in Chicago&rsquo;s Lincoln Park. If you see something quickly zooming towards the ground, it could be a hawk looking for lunch. For his part, Fidino will see the hunting bird just out of the corner of his eye. It will be &ldquo;this really quick movement going from the top of the tree downwards to whatever it&rsquo;s trying to catch. Then its talons go out, and it grabs what it&rsquo;s going after and then it&rsquo;ll swing back up or land with it,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks have nests that are smaller than squirrels&rsquo; bulky, leafy nests. Another way to catch a glimpse of a hawk is to keep an eye on their nest &ldquo;and see who shows up,&rdquo; Fidino says.</p><p><strong>A possible hawk menace?</strong></p><p>It&rsquo;s reassuring to see a previously struggling species thrive, but perhaps you&rsquo;re wondering about a downside. Cooper&rsquo;s Hawks survive mostly by hunting smaller birds. Will we be hearing about a &ldquo;save the chickadees&rdquo; campaign in a few years?<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Flickr_%20Mike%20Ormsby_Copper%27s%20Hawk.jpg" style="height: 346px; width: 275px; float: left;" title="Cooper's Hawks look very similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, but differences can be detected with key details like tail feather shape. Our field guide gives more clues for distinguishing the species. (Flickr/Mike Ormsby)" /></p><p>Fidino is not worried. Populations of top predators like hawks tend to be much smaller than their prey species. The relatively few chickadees or pigeons who end up being a hawk&rsquo;s lunch shouldn&rsquo;t significantly damage their population. The various bird populations, Fidino says, &ldquo;should be able to work themselves out into what you&rsquo;d kind of consider an equilibrium.&rdquo;</p><p>Hawks mostly hunt birds, although they&rsquo;ll also dine on small mammals. It&rsquo;s very rare for pets to come under attack by raptors. However, when pressed, Fidino will advise that owners of small pets might want to &ldquo;be mindful of the species that they&rsquo;re adding to the ecosystem,&rdquo; and perhaps not leave especially tiny dogs unattended in the back yard.</p><p><strong>The adaptation game</strong></p><p>Carole wondered if we&rsquo;re seeing more hawks in Chicago because they&rsquo;ve developed adaptive behaviors to live in cities. Dr. Seth Magle, the Urban Wildlife Institute&rsquo;s director, says that&rsquo;s not the case. He described the concept of &ldquo;habitat analogs,&rdquo; where parts of our built environment function to animals the way their natural habitat does.</p><p>Magle provides the example of pigeons. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re cliff-dwelling species, but in cities we build these big tall buildings, so to pigeons they may kind of look like cliffs,&rdquo; and thus look like home, he says.</p><p>Hawk behavior is similar. Red-tailed hawks like to perch on something tall, and power lines along the highway function perfectly for that task. Other species, including the Cooper&rsquo;s Hawk, feel perfectly at home in trees near humans. And why not, now that we city-dwellers and suburbanites are more interested in watching hawks than shooting them.</p><p><em>Special thanks to the <a href="http://www.birds.cornell.edu" target="_blank">Cornell Lab of Ornithology</a> for permission to use images, bird listings and sound for this story.</em></p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent producer. Follow her on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/katieklocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.<a name="hawkscreensavers"></a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hawks-rise-109889 How Much Road Salt Ends Up in Lake Michigan? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curiuos City podcast includes an audio story about road salt. It begins 5 minutes, 50 seconds into the program. (Subscribe via <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes </a>or <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)</em></p><p>Aaron Stigger is a graphic and web designer born and raised in Oak Park. He caught Curious City&rsquo;s attention with <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1522" target="_blank">this question</a>:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><font><font>How does all the winter salt runoff affect Lake Michigan&#39;s water?</font></font></em></p><p><font><font>But he </font></font><em><font><font>really </font></font></em><font><font>piqued our interest after telling us the backstory.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;On my way to work everyday I pass by this gi-normous salt pile, which is kind of plopped down on some dirt and some broken-up cement,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That kind of got me thinking: Well, if it&rsquo;s seeping into the ground under this big, uncovered pile, what is it doing, all the salt we distribute all around the city?&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><a href="https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=41.954739%2C-87.79664800000002&amp;cbp=%2C65.45%2C%2C0%2C9.139999&amp;layer=c&amp;panoid=S-PkH0iF7NxMblex4A7Wog&amp;spn=0.18000000000000152%2C0.30000000000001953&amp;output=classic&amp;cbll=41.954739%2C-87.796648" target="_blank"><font><font>The particular mound of salt</font></font></a><font><font> that Aaron saw is in Dunning, a neighborhood on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side. That mound&#39;s got company: Chicago stores 19 piles of salt across the city. And that&rsquo;s not counting many more spread across the suburbs and Northwest Indiana.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But is there really a wall of brine heading to the lake and, if so, should we be worried? We found out that, at least according to a few environmental standards, Lake Michigan is actually in much better shape than Stigger expected. But another waterway may have earned his concern.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Just how much salt are we talking about, anyway?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before we get to specifics on any effects on Lake Michigan, let&rsquo;s put the amounts of road salt we use into perspective, at least when it comes to Chicago.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Since November 2009, the city has spread an average of 215,456</font></font>&nbsp;tons of salt to melt snow and ice each year, according to figures provided by The Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation:<a name="chart"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="300" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/CbhQh/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="350"></iframe></div><p><font><font>That&rsquo;s counting this winter,&nbsp;</font></font><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637" target="_blank"><font><font>which has been particularly brutal</font></font></a><font><font>. As of February 28, the city already dumped more than 370,000 tons of salt on city streets &mdash; a solid 42 percent more than the next heaviest use in the previous five years.</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aaron%20stigger%27s%20salt%20pile.jpg" style="height: 304px; width: 525px; margin: 5px;" title="The Chicago salt pile that Oak Parker Aaron Stigger sees on his way to work. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" /></div><p><font><font>It&rsquo;s not just a problem in Chicago. Humans move a lot of salt. A 2004 study estimated that we mobilize more than 140 teragrams &mdash; that&rsquo;s 140 billion kilograms &mdash; of chlorides every year.</font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><font><font><strong>Video: </strong><a href="#video">Just how big are these salt piles</a>?</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Salt&rsquo;s destination: our streams and rivers</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So, with some of these figures in mind, let&rsquo;s consider the effects.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s &ldquo;aha moment&rdquo; came about when he saw one of the city&rsquo;s salt piles while it was uncovered. It&rsquo;s a reasonable concern, given that researchers from the University of Rhode Island </font></font><a href="http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/ww/Publications/Chlorides.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font>estimate uncovered salt piles lost about 20 percent</font></font></a><font><font> of their salt each year. Much of it ends up in nearby waterways.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most piles are covered during the off-season, however, so salt used for deicing is the main source of urban chloride pollution. Chemists know salt as NaCl, or sodium chloride, which breaks down in water. Hence there are pollution measurements and standards for &ldquo;chlorides,&rdquo; not &ldquo;salt.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But where&rsquo;s this runoff headed? The hydrological lay of the land is such that most salt-laden runoff in Chicago ends up in the Chicago River and other inland waterways &mdash; not Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>The principal reason is that </font></font><a href="http://chicagopublicradio.org/story/should-we-reverse-chicago-river-again-95661" target="_blank"><font><font>the city reversed the flow of the river more than 100 years ago</font></font></a><font><font>, so most of our runoff ends up in the waterways that feed into the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.</font></font><a href="http://www.isws.illinois.edu/pubdoc/B/ISWSB-74.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font> A 2010 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found</font></font></a><font><font> road salt runoff and treated wastewater from the Chicago region are the dominant sources of chlorides in the navigable sections of the Illinois River, and two major tributaries in the Chicago region. The study says that number has risen steadily since about 1960.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;The lake doesn&rsquo;t receive very much input from stormwater from the city of Chicago,&rdquo; says Scott Twait, who works in IEPA&rsquo;s Water Quality Standards division. &ldquo;However with all the salting, all the road salt enters into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and the Cal-Sag channel, and flows downstream to the Des Plaines River. And collecting all the runoff, the chloride levels can spike in those areas and get quite high.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>In high concentrations, chlorides can be toxic to aquatic life. But it&rsquo;s hard to tell how many times salt runoff from Chicago has caused toxic levels of chlorides in inland waterways, because the Illinois Pollution Control Board doesn&rsquo;t classify those waters as &ldquo;General Use&rdquo; waterways. Those waters are subject to Illinois&rsquo; 500 mg/L water quality standard. Instead, IEPA regulates &ldquo;total dissolved solids&rdquo; in Chicago-area waterways, lumping together chlorides, sulfates and other chemicals for a single reading. Chloride levels have spiked above 1000 mg/L in some inland waterways &mdash; twice IEPA&rsquo;s standard for most of the state.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Chicago-area waterways are the only ones in the state that aren&rsquo;t regulated by General Use standards. As Twait explained, that&rsquo;s because they were so polluted when the standards were set that they earned their own benchmarks. (You can see IEPA&rsquo;s </font></font><a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/tmdl/303d-list.html" target="_blank"><font><font>full list of impaired Illinois waterways here</font></font></a><font><font>.)</font></font></p><p><font><font><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Aaron%20Stigger%20by%20Kurt%20Gerber.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 220px; width: 220px;" title="Aaron Stigger asked Curious City about road salt runoff. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" />&ldquo;Back in the 70s these were the only waters that were kind of beyond repair, as to their thinking back in the 70s, so they got kind of special standards&rdquo; Twait says. &ldquo;They really had no hope for them in the future.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But those waters are much cleaner now. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which handles and treats the region&rsquo;s combined runoff and sewer water, has improved its filtration methods. MWRD Spokeswoman Allison Fore &nbsp;says they&rsquo;ve adopted best practices suggested by the DuPage/Salt Creek Work Group for managing their roadways and facilities.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Twait says EPA is looking to bring Chicago-area waterways in line with the rest of the state&rsquo;s rivers and streams. If they update the water quality standards, he says, &ldquo;one of the things we know is that we&rsquo;ll have chloride issues in the winter time.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Regulators would come up with some kind of limit for chloride in Chicago-area rivers. That could make cities think twice before spreading so much road salt. It&rsquo;s much tougher for the EPA to regulate salt from so many spread-out sources (storm drains spread out across the city and suburbs) than from, say, a factory with a fallout pipe dumping salt into the river.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So our question asker Aaron Stigger is right to worry about salt runoff, but not so much in Lake Michigan. In Chicago&rsquo;s case, it&rsquo;s our inland waterways that are in trouble.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Corrosive chlorides and city infrastructure</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before it even gets into area waterways, salt works its way through the city&rsquo;s subterranean network of pipes. That can cause problems for the city&rsquo;s Department of Water Management, which provides drinking water to Chicago and 125 suburbs. They also deliver stormwater to MWRD for treatment.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Tom Powers, the city&rsquo;s commissioner of water management, says chlorides are at such a low concentration in Lake Michigan that his department barely takes note.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;It would require an incredible amount of road salt to affect Lake Michigan &mdash; that&rsquo;s a very robust system,&rdquo; Powers says. &ldquo;When we test [the water], it doesn&rsquo;t even appear on what we&rsquo;re testing for.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>The EPA&rsquo;s national drinking water standard for chloride is 250 mg/L, some 20 times higher than Lake Michigan&rsquo;s current concentration. Chicago&rsquo;s Dept. of Water Management, like many such agencies, adds water softeners that can include salt. But it&rsquo;s not enough to even approach the EPA limits.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But road salt can corrode the pipes that carry that water, exacerbating the stress that the winter freeze-and-thaw cycle puts on an aging network of water pipes that would stretch 4,500 miles if laid end to end. About 1,000 miles of those water pipes are 100 years old or older, Powers says. In 2009 the department had to repair 8,873 catch basins &mdash; more than twice last year&rsquo;s 3,647.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Development in urban areas makes the salt corrosion problem worse, by funneling more runoff into the system. Studies have correlated growth in chloride levels with the rate of urbanization, and even with miles of road in the vicinity of the waterway in question.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;While we are right to be cautious in applying &lsquo;common sense&rsquo; to such things,&rdquo; says Stephen McCracken, who coordinates the Conservation Foundation&rsquo;s DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, &ldquo;in this case the relationship seems quite straightforward with salt being applied to road surfaces, increased road density means a larger salt total applied, even at a constant application rate.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>So more development, more impervious surfaces, more runoff.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>A saltier lake?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So not much of that salt ends up in Lake Michigan. But there is enough runoff to register an increase in Lake Michigan&rsquo;s chloride levels since Chicago first started spreading road salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, says the current chloride levels in Lake Michigan are around 12 milligrams per liter.</font></font></p><p><font><font>That number has risen since widespread use of road salt began around 1960, according to</font></font><a href="http://www.saltinstitute.org/" target="_blank"><font><font> the Salt Institute</font></font></a><font><font>. Chloride levels in Lake Michigan rise about 0.1 mg/L each year, but they&rsquo;re still well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s 500 mg/L standard for &ldquo;General Use waters&rdquo;. Nationally, EPA&rsquo;s criteria for chloride toxicity</font></font><a href="http://www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/water/standards/ws_review.pdf?amp;tabid=1302" target="_blank"><font><font> are 230 mg/L over a four day average, or an hourly average of 860 mg/L</font></font></a><font><font>. (EPA is currently reevaluating that standard, which was first set in 1988.)</font></font></p><p><font><font>If you measure chlorides in Lake Michigan in the spring, however, you pick up all that winter road ice and runoff. Since 1980, springtime average chloride levels have risen almost 50 percent:</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/epa data salt.png" title="" /></div><p><br /><font><font>High chloride levels choke aquatic species that depend on a certain salinity to keep their bodies in equilibrium. Amphibians, like salamanders and frogs, are especially susceptible to chloride pollution. Many of them breed in temporary </font></font><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/93733769@N03/9396817314/" target="_blank"><font><font>vernal pools</font></font></a><font><font> that are cut off from other bodies water, and thus have no way to flush out excess salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>IEPA&rsquo;s Biggs says chlorides in Lake Michigan aren&rsquo;t threatening aquatic life. &ldquo;There are not significant concerns or actions being taken to reduce chlorides in Lake Michigan as they are still reading below the water quality standard,&rdquo; she wrote in an email. &ldquo;We do not feel that salt runoff from the Chicago area is a major contributor to the chloride levels in Lake Michigan.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Winter deicing is the major driver of high chloride levels in Chicago&rsquo;s waterways, but wastewater treatment also contributes. In the outfall of waste water treatment plants in DuPage County, for example, chloride levels are more than ten times higher than they are in Lake Michigan. Studies by the Illinois State Water Survey and MWRD sampled the water flowing out from MWRD&rsquo;s Stickney wastewater treatment (the largest such plant in the U.S.), and found median chloride levels of 145 mg/L, compared to 8-12 mg/L in Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most of MWRD&rsquo;s contribution comes from human waste itself, which contains chlorides. They also use ferric chloride to help filter wastewater &mdash; the chemical is useful for, among other eyebrow-raising processes, &ldquo;sludge thickening&rdquo; &mdash; but are moving away from that in favor of biologically-based techniques that would replace ferric chloride.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>If you can&rsquo;t beet &rsquo;em ...</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So what&rsquo;s the city doing to cut back on its salt use?</font></font></p><p><font><font>Dept. of Streets &amp; Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe says they train salt truck drivers to spread salt judiciously &mdash; that means waiting until plows have cleared most standing snow, since salt sprinkled on top of several inches of the white stuff won&rsquo;t do much. When the forecast calls for mild temperatures, salt trucks take it easy and let the weather do some of the work.<a name="video"></a></font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="323" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WphGL9fjbbo" width="575"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>City workers move salt at the depot at Grand and Rockwell (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)</em></p><p><font><font>The city even enlists an unusual fruit cocktail of sorts to get more out of its salt: beet juice. It&rsquo;s full of sugar, and helps lowers the freezing point of ice. Mixing salt with molasses or another sugary substance can do the same thing. Salt solutions are good too, because they spread out easier than rock salt so they&rsquo;re more efficient. Wisconsin has started spraying cheese brine for similar reasons.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Typical salt (sodium chloride) is not effective in subzero temperatures, but other salt compounds can break ice crystals at lower temperatures &mdash; calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are common substitutes, but they eat into concrete and metal faster than table salt. Right now the city uses sodium chloride.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s salt pile is probably going to exist as long as severe winter weather visits Chicago. But if IEPA ups the standard for the metropolitan area&rsquo;s inland waterways, he might start to see the salt disappear a little bit more gradually.</font></font></p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/"><font><font>Chris Bentley</font></font></a><font><font> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at</font></font><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"><font><font> @Cementley</font></font></a><font><font>.</font></font></em></p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 Fish and risks: Eating Lake Michigan catch http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This story has an addendum that addresses a follow-up question we received via a comment. The current article addresses chemicals that are of concern to environmental agencies and that affect issuance of fish consumption advisories. The <a href="#addendum">addendum </a>addresses additional chemicals of concern.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Steve Ediger says he&rsquo;s not an avid fisherman, but he has cast a few lines. When he was growing up, his grandfather would take him fishing in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.</p><p>About six years ago, he moved to Chicago&rsquo;s northernmost neighborhood of Rogers Park, where he sees people<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/fishing"> fishing</a> off Farwell Pier. It got him wondering about the fish those anglers catch, so he asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;What would it take for Lake Michigan fish to be safe to eat?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Ediger suspects Lake Michigan fish aren&rsquo;t entirely safe to eat, and he&rsquo;s not alone. With major cities and industrial centers like Chicago, Milwaukee and Green Bay along its shores &mdash; as well as the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">refineries of Northwestern Indiana</a> &mdash; Lake Michigan is no stranger to pollution. To find out just how much of the stuff ends up in the fish we pluck out of the lake, I asked a few people with different angles on the situation. Turns out a lot of work goes into monitoring and disseminating information about contaminants in Lake Michigan fish. We find out which are most worrisome to fishermen and toxicologists, but also why you shouldn&rsquo;t let that scare you off eating fish entirely.</p><p><strong>A pro&rsquo;s perspective</strong></p><p>I put the question to someone who handles Lake Michigan fish every day: Joel Reiser, captain of the Chicago charter boat company<a href="http://www.bnrcharters.com/"> Brush And Roll</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Pretty much everything is edible in Lake Michigan with moderation,&rdquo; he says. Reiser brings up to six people on chartered fishing trips in Lake Michigan, leaving from<a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-unveils-new-south-side-boat-harbor-99912"> 31st Street Harbor</a>. They catch chinook salmon, coho salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout. His crew cleans and bags up to five fish per customer (only two lake trout), which they can take home to eat.</p><p>He&rsquo;s been eating fish from Lake Michigan and elsewhere since he was a child. That might worry some people who have heard unsettling things about Lake Michigan fish. One fish market I called looking for Lake Michigan fish told me to &ldquo;try to the cancer ward.&rdquo;</p><p>With <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/news/ct-met-great-lakes-plastic-pollution-20130807_1_lorena-rios-mendoza-lake-michigan-toxic-chemicals">stories of polluted waters</a> swirling, Reiser watches out for government-issued fish advisories and eats seafood in moderation. But he says fish from any waters can contain contaminants.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve never heard of anyone growing a third eye, you know, some of the jokes that are out there,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So I believe that it&rsquo;s safer. I believe the government does put higher standards on it, just as a safety precaution just to cover &mdash; no pun intended &mdash; their own tail.&rdquo;</p><p>It turns out, Reiser&rsquo;s basically right. In casting about for an answer to Ediger&#39;s question, we found out Lake Michigan&rsquo;s pollution problems aren&rsquo;t the whole story. The horror stories are overblown, but they&rsquo;re rooted in truth.</p><p><strong>(Fish) food for thought</strong><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/210637870/Lake-Michigan-fish-How-many-should-you-eat" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big fish graphic 2.png" style="float: right; height: 882px; width: 320px;" title="Click to download a printable version. (Graphic by Logan Jaffe/WBEZ)" /></a></p><p>Tom Hornshaw, a toxicologist with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/surface-water/fish-contaminant-mon.html">fish contaminant monitoring program</a>,&rdquo; helps gather data that goes into those government advisories. Since 1974, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and IEPA have nabbed fish (mainly bass, channel catfish and carp)<a href="http://mercnet.briloon.org/projects/IL_EPA_-_llinois_Fish_Contaminant_Monitoring_Program/144/"> from 500 locations</a> in Illinois for contaminant testing. I asked Hornshaw point-blank: Is it safe to eat fish from Lake Michigan?</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;as long as you follow the various advisories that have been issued for Lake Michigan fish.&rdquo;</p><p>If you&rsquo;re wondering what Captain Reiser meant by &ldquo;moderation,&rdquo; you might start with the<a href="http://www.ifishillinois.org/regulations/consumption.html"> general fish consumption advisory</a> from the Illinois Department of Public Health.</p><p>State agencies keep<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/index.htm"> a running list of current fish advisories statewide</a>, which vary by species and body of water. They also change over time. On a <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/lakemichigan.htm">page that&#39;s specific to Lake Michigan catch</a>, the agency provides warnings for&nbsp;10 fish species. The DNR doesn&rsquo;t recommend you eat any of them more than once a week, and some come with the unequivocal advice: &ldquo;<strong>Do Not Eat.</strong>&rdquo; This applies to lake-caught carp and channel catfish.</p><p>The advisories vary based on the fish&rsquo;s size, in some cases. Take the yellow perch,<em> Perca flavescens</em>. Fish less than 11 inches long, the Illinois DNR says, should be eaten at most once per week. But you should only eat perch larger than 11 inches once per month. Likewise lake trout, a popular sport fish can that grow up to three feet long, carries three tiers of advisories: less than 25 inches? One meal per month; 25-29 inches? Six meals per year; larger than 29 inches? Do not eat.</p><p>If you fish in Wisconsin, use that state&rsquo;s<a href="http://dnr.wi.gov/FCSExternalAdvQry/FishAdvisorySrch.aspx"> online query tool</a> to check on the water you&rsquo;ll be fishing. Indiana, too,<a href="http://www.in.gov/isdh/23650.htm"> updates its fish consumption advisories online</a>.</p><p><strong>PCBs: What&rsquo;s all the fuss about?</strong></p><p>One of the major culprits are a group of chemicals known as PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyls<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> are a group of man-made chemicals useful in a variety of industrial processes</a>, including the insulation and cooling of electrical equipment. EPA banned their use in 1979, after it was widely recognized PCB pollution had caused skin conditions and immune system disorders. Studies have also linked the chemicals to cancer. We produced more than one billion pounds of the stuff in the U.S., about half of which made its way into the environment.</p><p>They take a long time to break down, so PCBs are still prevalent in the environment.<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/waukegannorthharbor.htm"> There is a specific advisory for Waukegan North Harbor</a>, where Outboard Marine Corp.<a href="http://newssun.suntimes.com/news/14980816-418/waukegan-harbor-pcb-mess-finally-getting-scrubbed.html"> dumped PCBs</a> as a byproduct of their manufacturing process. That cleanup is ongoing.<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-07/news/ct-met-waukegan-harbor-cleanup-20120907_1_susie-schreiber-cleanup-sites-epa-remedial-project-manager"> EPA is dredging the harbor</a>, a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/" target="_blank">Superfund site</a> once called the &ldquo;world&rsquo;s worst PCB mess.&rdquo;</p><p>But PCB pollution continues long after its source is cut off. PCBs still find their way into the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> through a process called<a href="http://www.epa.gov/glindicators/air/airb.html"> atmospheric deposition</a>. They travel around the world through the atmosphere, falling out of the sky at high latitudes. That&rsquo;s why scientists have found high levels of the stuff in the Arctic, thousands of miles from the factories that pumped out PCBs in the 1970s.</p><p>At this point Hornshaw, the EPA toxicologist, says atmospheric deposition is probably the primary source of PCBs in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a>. He says there&rsquo;s a simple, one-word answer for what it will take for Lake Michigan fish to become safer for consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Time,&rdquo; he says. Not 10 years, but less than 100. These chemicals take a long time to break down, but they&rsquo;re not invincible. Beth Murphy, who manages EPA&rsquo;s Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance program, passed along this graphic showing PCB declines against a 1994-95 baseline (the red line):</p><p><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/trout%20chart.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="" /></p><p>The graph suggests that by 2035, assuming progress continues, you should be able to eat all the Great Lakes lake trout filets that you want without fear of PCBs.</p><p>Lake and river sediments are especially good at holding onto PCBs, so bottom-dwelling fish tend to have higher levels (hence the &ldquo;Do Not Eat&rdquo; advisory on carp and channel catfish in Lake Michigan). PCBs also accumulate in fatty tissues, so it&rsquo;s important to filet wild-caught fish properly before eating them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20cutting.gif" style="float: left;" title="" /></p><p>PCBs aren&rsquo;t very soluble in water, so swimming isn&rsquo;t going to result in dangerous exposure.</p><p><strong>Getting the good stuff</strong></p><p>It turns out Captain Reiser&rsquo;s suspicion that government agencies were covering &ldquo;their own tail&rdquo; is correct.</p><p>&ldquo;The advisories may be overprotective for women beyond childbearing age and for adult men,&rdquo; reads<a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/fishadvisory/fishadvisory_qa_pcb.htm"> an FAQ from the Illinois Department of Public Health</a>. That&rsquo;s especially true for<a href="http://www.epa.gov/hg/exposure.htm"> mercury &mdash; a potent pollutant found in fish from Lake Michigan and around the world</a>.</p><p>Fetuses, nursing babies and young children are especially vulnerable, so the advisories are drafted with a low tolerance for risk. Mercury can severely hinder development of the fetal nervous system. EPA found<a href="http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/fishadvisories/technical.cfm#tabs-4"> mercury levels in women of childbearing age dropped 34 percent from a survey conducted in 1999-2000</a>, but it&rsquo;s still a concern.</p><p>But eating fish has a lot of health benefits, too, so long as you don&rsquo;t exceed the advisories. Eight Great Lakes states are two years into a study funded by the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes"> Great Lakes</a> Restoration Initiative, weighing the benefits of eating fish against the risks. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to come up with ways of incorporating the benefits of eating fish along with the deleterious effects,&rdquo; Hornshaw says, &ldquo;so we can have a more focused advisory.&rdquo;</p><p>Pat McCann, a fish advisory specialist with Minnesota&rsquo;s Department of Public Health says it&rsquo;s important to keep in mind the big picture.</p><p>&ldquo;The benefits do outweigh the risks if you eat fish that are low in contaminants,&rdquo; McCann says. &ldquo;So the challenge is to get people information about which fish are low in contaminants, and get it to them in a way that&rsquo;s understandable and that they can adopt in their normal life.&rdquo;</p><p>A lot of people swear off fish altogether, but McCann says that&rsquo;s actually counterproductive. Take the group of people most sensitive to mercury contamination: pregnant women. Mercury impairs neurological development in fetuses. But the McCann says that doesn&rsquo;t mean women should avoid all fish entirely.</p><p>&ldquo;Women of childbearing age and pregnant women need to eat fish, because fish have Omega-3 fatty acids, and other good nutrients, and it&rsquo;s a good source of protein,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And so those things are good for the baby. So if they stop eating fish that&rsquo;s a negative thing.&rdquo;</p><p>Concentrations of mercury and PCBs are above guidelines for walleye and lake trout in all of the Great Lakes. Mercury levels were getting worse in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie when <a href="http://binational.net/solec/sogl2011/sogl-2011-technical-report-en.pdf">EPA and Environment Canada released their 2011 &quot;State of the Great Lakes&quot; report</a>.</p><p><strong>Reeling it in</strong></p><p>One place you&rsquo;ll find Great Lakes fish on sale in Chicago is Market Fisheries at 7129 S. State St., in the<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/greater-grand-crossing"> Greater Grand Crossing</a> neighborhood. They&rsquo;ve been owned and operated by the Brody Family since 1957.</p><p>Curtis Alexander, the market&rsquo;s manager, shows me around. The market&rsquo;s busy. People pull numbers and step up to order catfish or perch, while an employee behind the counter scales and hacks up fish.</p><p>Alexander says their suppliers are mostly based in Canada, so they don&rsquo;t sell Lake Michigan fish. But they&rsquo;ll gladly clean your catch.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of time I clean fish that people go and catch from Lake Michigan,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You got the yellow lake perch over there, you got the little bluegills, walleye pike, you know bigmouth bass &mdash; there&rsquo;s a lot of fish that they catch from Lake Michigan. People go fishing, they bring them in here, sometimes we clean it up for them.&rdquo;</p><p>No one brings in fresh-caught fish from Lake Michigan while I&rsquo;m there. But trout fishing season in Illinois starts April 5, and Alexander may have new customers soon. IDNR added four new areas for rainbow trout fishing this year, including Chicago&rsquo;s Wolf Lake&mdash;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/where-can-you-hunt-chicago-108954">one of two hunter-friendly oases in the city proper</a>.</p><p>Our question-asker, Steve Ediger, knows a few people who might take advantage of that new fishery. In an informal survey of his fishing friends, Ediger found that concerns over PCBs and mercury aren&rsquo;t deal-breakers for avid anglers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll tell you the one thing everybody says,&rdquo; Ediger says. &ldquo;They were less suspect of the fish they catch than the fish they get in the supermarket.&rdquo;</p><p>Mercury and PCB pollution are problems for fisheries all over the world &mdash; not just Lake Michigan. Clean-up efforts here have come a long way, but new pollutants could set us back. A BP refinery in Northwest Indiana <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-23/news/ct-met-bp-mercury-20130623_1_bp-refinery-whiting-refinery-oil-company-bp">came under fire last year</a> when it missed a federal deadline to put in place new pollution controls for mercury (state regulators gave them an exemption).</p><p>And if <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/asian-carp">the threat of invasive species like Asian carp</a> proves as devastating as some studies predict, Great Lakes fisheries could collapse whether or not we continue to clean up the water.</p><p>So, a corollary to Tom Hornshaw&rsquo;s one-word answer to our question: What will it take to make Lake Michigan fish safe to eat? Time, and our attention.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong><a name="addendum"></a>Addendum: other chemicals</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Mercury and PCBs are the major chemicals that Illinois&rsquo; state EPA tests for and regulates, but <a href="http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/monitoring/fish/">there are other contaminants worth considering</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Many other chemicals meet the two main criteria for raising fish contaminant concerns: <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-54783_54784_54785_54800-256866--,00.html">they&#39;re bioaccumulative and persistent</a>. That means they build up in the tissues of aquatic organisms, and they stick around. They can broadly be categorized by the term the EPA uses, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.epa.gov/international/toxics/pop.html">persistent organic pollutants</a>.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Besides mercury and PCBs, a few other common contaminants fit the bill: pesticides such as DDT, chlordane, and dieldrin; and dioxins, a carcinogenic group of chemicals created in the course of many industrial processes. (Dioxins are chemically similar to PCBs, which could themselves be counted under that blanket term.)</p><p dir="ltr">More recently, Great Lakes environmental agencies <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">have tracked the dilution of another potentially harmful contaminant</a>. A group of flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) were phased out starting in 2004. Measurements by Environment Canada <a href="http://www.epa.gov/grtlakes/monitoring/fish/pbde.html">show</a> declines in PBDE concentrations across the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, but Illinois EPA doesn&rsquo;t track PBDEs in fish. As toxicologist Tom Hornshaw explains, the reason isn&rsquo;t lack of concern &mdash; it&rsquo;s lack of funding.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Currently PBDEs are not addressed in our fish advisory program&mdash;our lab is not set up to do PBDEs and it would require purchase of an expensive piece of equipment to analyze for them,&rdquo; Hornshaw writes in an email.</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s important to note in this addendum that the chemicals we&rsquo;re phasing out now don&rsquo;t disappear immediately. That&rsquo;s why they call them persistent pollutants. PCBs, DDT and other chemicals in the Great Lakes are contaminants largely inherited from a time roughly 50 years ago. We have to wonder what legacy today&rsquo;s garbage will have on future Great Lakes residents.</p><p dir="ltr">Already <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/31/us-usa-pollution-greatlakes-idUSBRE96U03120130731">tiny plastic beads pose a threat</a> to fish health and environmental quality in the region.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City, and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fish-and-risks-eating-lake-michigan-catch-109808 Chinese government to pay to stop pollution http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-02-17/chinese-government-pay-stop-pollution-109717 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/(AP PhotoEugene Hoshiko).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences reports that Beijing is &ldquo;&quot;barely suitable&quot; for living because of pollution. Judith Shapiro, author of &#39;China&#39;s Environmental Challenges&#39;, discusses the Chinese government&#39;s battle with toxic air.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-14/embed" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-14.js"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-14" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Chinese to pay to stop pollution" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 17 Feb 2014 10:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-02-17/chinese-government-pay-stop-pollution-109717 Morning Shift: Palm oil's unsavory beginnings http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-07/morning-shift-palm-oils-unsavory-beginnings-108314 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Palm Oil-Flickr- cyn_nister.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We discuss the Bloomberg investigation into the unsavory practices in the palm oil industry. And do you care who your children&#39;s role models are? Baseball&#39;s recent PED scandal is calling the issue of role models to the plate.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-37.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-37" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Palm oil's unsavory beginnings" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Wed, 07 Aug 2013 08:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-08-07/morning-shift-palm-oils-unsavory-beginnings-108314