WBEZ | great lakes http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Great Lakes racing to prepare for a new kind of oil spill http://www.wbez.org/news/science/great-lakes-racing-prepare-new-kind-oil-spill-110797 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/boom2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The <a href="http://www.uscg.mil/d9/">U.S. Coast Guard&rsquo;s Ninth District</a> is in charge of protecting the maritime interests of the Great Lakes. Those interests include industries like shipping, fishing, and tourism that create billions of dollars in revenue for the Great Lakes basin each year. And so, the agency is always thinking about oil spills. It conducts dozens of tabletop and real world preparation exercises every year to prepare.</p><p>But the oil spill game is changing.The explosion in tar sands production in western Canada means increasing amounts of crude oil is making its way to the American Midwest. Imports of crude oil to the Midwest reached a record high earlier this month, according to the Energy Information Association. Tar sands bitumen is different than traditional crude oil. It&rsquo;s heavier and it sinks in freshwater. And that has caught the attention of the people in charge of cleaning up oil spills, including the U.S. Coast Guard.</p><p>&ldquo;The Midwest and the Great Lakes lie at a virtual crossroads of production and transportation and distribution. And because those things carry inherent risk. we&rsquo;re faced with some tough questions about how to deal with that,&rdquo; says Rear Admiral Fred Midgette, who commands the U.S. Coast Guard&rsquo;s Ninth District.</p><p>&ldquo;From my perspective, clearly one of the most important things that are going to happen in the next decade is how we handle this issue of heavy oil. We need to get it right,&rdquo; he told a crowd last week in Detroit at the <a href="http://www.spillcontrol.org/">International Spill Control Organization</a>&rsquo;s annual forum. ISCO has been around for decades, but this was the first time its annual forum focused exclusively on responding to heavy, Group V oils that can sink in water.</p><p>The reason why has a lot to do with what happened four years ago in the small town of Marshall, Michigan. On July 26, 2010, a 30-inch pipeline belonging to Enbridge Energy Partners LLP burst and spilled over a million gallons of tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek. From there, it made its way to the Kalamazoo River where it traveled over 35 miles downstream, coating birds, turtles, and other wildlife with oil.</p><p>Cleaning up the river took longer than anyone expected. That&rsquo;s because tar sands oil is too thick to move through a pipeline on its own--imagine a kind of shiny, black peanut butter. It&rsquo;s thinned out with other chemicals to get it flowing. But when the mixture is exposed to air, those chemicals gradually evaporate over a period of several days or weeks. At the Kalamazoo River, that left behind over a million gallons of heavy, sticky goo at the river bottom. Crews are finally wrapping up the dredging process four years and nearly $1 billion later.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t speak for a lot of the other players, but I know for us the EPA response and the Enbridge response to the Kalamazoo, I think opened a lot of people&rsquo;s eyes in that the threat is real from heavy oils and what they can do to the environment,&rdquo; says Jerry Popiel, incident management advisor for the Coast Guard&rsquo;s 9th District.</p><p>Popiel says there aren&rsquo;t any vessels carrying tar sands crude oil on the Great Lakes right now, but at least one company--<a href="http://www.calumetspecialty.com/">Calumet Specialty Products Partners</a> in Indianapolis--has expressed interest in the idea. And that has Popiel thinking about the challenges of responding to a such a spill in the Great Lakes.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s one thing when you have 10 feet of water, 5 feet of water, or maybe 30 feet of water. Well, okay there are tethers and things and divers you might potentially use for there. That&rsquo;s one set of problems. If it happens in Lake Superior in 800 feet of water, that&rsquo;s a different set of problems,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Right now, those are problems without good solutions. The Coast Guard&rsquo;s trying to change that, and so is a whole industry that&rsquo;s grown up to respond to oil spills. In 2011, the Coast Guard awarded $2.5 million to three companies. They were asked to develop technologies that could better detect and recover sinking oils.</p><p>Some of those technologies were on display at last week&rsquo;s forum, including one from <a href="http://www.alionscience.com/">Alion Science and Technology</a> called the Seagoing Adaptable Heavy Oil Recovery System or the SEAHORSE. The SEAHORSE looks more like a giant carburetor than a dainty ocean creature. But Al Arsenault, an engineer with the company, says it&rsquo;s safer and more effective than traditional methods.</p><p>&ldquo;The scenarios in the past have used divers. It&rsquo;s a dirty job, it&rsquo;s a very dangerous job to send divers down when this product is on the water column, on the surface, and on the bottom. It sticks to you like peanut butter,&rdquo; Arsenault explains.</p><p>The SEAHORSE doesn&rsquo;t use any divers. Instead, its trio of remotely operated vehicles scans the seafloor for oil and pumps it back up to the surface. SEAHORSE and other new technologies let responders reach spills hundreds of feet under water and can detect and recover oil at the same time. The Coast Guard says these new technologies are promising, but they aren&rsquo;t widely available and can be costly to build.</p><p>Emergency responders in our region may still have some time to sort out those problems. It isn&rsquo;t clear yet that Great Lakes shipping is going to be a good option for moving tar sands oil. For one thing, the lakes are frozen over for several months every year.</p><p>&ldquo;The other big issue is competition. Shipping oil on the Great Lakes will make sense if it&rsquo;s less expensive than shipping it by rail,&rdquo; says Steve Fisher, Executive Director of the <a href="http://www.greatlakesports.org/">American Great Lakes Ports Association</a>. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Fisher says a lot would have to change before tankers full of tar sands crude oil set sail on the Great Lakes. It would require the oil industry to make long-term commitments with shipping companies to entice them to make investments in new ships and shoreside loading facilities.</p><p>Still, environmentalists say economic pressures are building.</p><p>Several refineries in the region, including one just south of Chicago in Whiting, Indiana, have been upgraded to process tar sands oil. Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Director at the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>, says shipping by vessel on the lakes also opens up a route for transport to refineries on the East Coast.</p><p>Welch says right now, a lot of the decisions that could set the scene for shipping this kind of oil on the Great Lakes are happening at a state or local level. And he says that patchwork approach could have consequences for the entire region.</p><p>&ldquo;A spill could happen anywhere, not just in the state where the initial dock is built to allow for this shipment,&rdquo; says Welch.</p><p>The dock he&rsquo;s referring to is owned by Elkhorn Industries in Superior, Wisconsin. The company reapplied for a permit to upgrade the dock in August after its first application was rejected by the state earlier this year. It&rsquo;s considered a first step in the project proposed by Calumet Specialty Products, though Elkhorn says they don&rsquo;t have concrete plans to partner with the company yet.</p><p>But the possibility that it could worries Welch, who says existing spill response preparation measures are inadequate when it comes to responding to a spill of tar sands oil.</p><p>There are increasing efforts to beef up those measures. Emergency responders like the Coast Guard and EPA are starting to include heavy oil spills in their preparation exercises. And the spill response industry continues to develop new and better technology for dealing with heavy oil spills.</p><p>But Welch says we shouldn&rsquo;t accept the shipment of tar sands oil on the Great Lakes as inevitable, even as we work out the regulatory kinks.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s vital that our Great Lakes region and community has a discussion as to whether the Great Lakes should become this thoroughfare for tar sands crude oil shipping. Are we prepared to accept that risk?&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s not a question, Welch says, for industry or government, but for each of the 34 million people who call the Great Lakes basin home.</p><p><em>April Van Buren is an assistant producer at WKAR in East Lansing. You can follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/aprilveebee">@aprilveebee</a>.</em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/great-lakes-racing-prepare-new-kind-oil-spill-110797 After Water: Science, art and journalism around climate change http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/After-Water_crop.png" style="height: 269px; width: 620px;" title="" />Join us as we focus on the future of the Great Lakes, in a way that is a little different for us. WBEZ&#39;s brought fiction writers and scientists together, then asked the writers to jump off from there, creating stories set decades from now&mdash;when clean, fresh water could be a rare resource.</p><p>We want to contemplate the future from a dual lens of <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">science</a> and <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/sets/after-water-fiction">art.</a> We&#39;ll be sharing our writers&rsquo; stories and the science behind them here. It&rsquo;s <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater"><em>After Water</em></a>. We invite your thoughts.</p><p><strong>The stories</strong></p><p>Local author Nnedi Okorafor starts out the series on Chicago&#39;s South Side. In her story,<a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky"> </a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92734891798/after-water-fiction-poison-fish-by-nnedi-okorafor">&quot;Poison Fish&quot;</a> (or, &quot;Poison Poisson&quot;), Okorafor brings us to a dystopian backdrop of memories and chaos, set along the waterfront on Chicago&#39;s Rainbow Beach.<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-nnedi-okorafor/s-KJdW3">&nbsp;Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Nnedi Okorafor. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear some of the science behind her story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159874918&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">In his story</a><a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92735533543/after-water-fiction-thirst-by-max-andrew-dubinsky">,</a> &ldquo;Thirst&rdquo; Los Angeles-based author Max Andrew Dubinsky brings us to a California that&rsquo;s dry and dying, its inhabitants looking to the Great Lakes as their last salvation. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-max-andrew-dubinsky/s-mxJX9">Listen to an interview</a> about this story with Max Andrew Dubinsky. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science">&nbsp;hear some of the science behind his story.&nbsp;</a></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159999662&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92743040588/after-water-fiction-world-after-water">&quot;World After Water,&quot;</a> Abby Geni brings us to a city drowned in dirty, toxic water. Four young brothers are forced to steal filtered water from their wealthy neighbors in order to survive. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-abby-geni">Listen to an interview</a> with Abby Geni about her story. Or<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/sets/after-water-the-science"> hear about some of science</a> behind her story.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160123800&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></em></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/92840460528/after-water-fiction-the-floating-city-of-new-chicago">&quot;The Floating City of New Chicago&quot;</a>, we see a Chicago divided by class...and water. The wealthy have fled the city for a secret island in Lake Michigan. The &quot;wet-collar&quot; workers have been left behind to do the city&#39;s dirtiest jobs. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-tricia-bobeda">Listen to author Tricia Bobeda</a> talk about how she found inspiration in a <em>30 Rock</em> episode. <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-michele-morano-asks-climate-scientists-how-they-cope">Or hear conversations</a> about the science behind her story.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160658367&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>In <a href="http://afterwater.tumblr.com/post/93235111273/after-water-fiction-the-last-cribkeeper-by-peter-orner">&quot;The Last Cribkeeper&quot;</a> we meet Harry Osgood as he walks along the shores of Lake Michigan. For years, he served as the guard for one of the water intake cribs miles from Chicago&#39;s shores. Now an old man, Harry looks out over the lake and reflects on how it has shaped the city&#39;s identity and his own.<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afterwater/after-water-an-interview-with-author-peter-orner"> Listen to author Peter Orner</a> talk about his lifelong fascination with the city&#39;s water cribs. Or <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/how-do-you-sleep-at-night-michele-morano-asks-climate-scientists-how-they-cope">check out some of the science</a> behind the story.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160834671&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>The science behind the stories</strong></p><p>The short&nbsp;stories you&#39;ve been listening to are solidly in the science fiction category.&nbsp;But some of&nbsp;the&nbsp;issues the&nbsp;writers touch on aren&#39;t as far out as you might think. Before they jumped 100 years into the future, we paired writers&nbsp;with scientists and policy experts to talk about the threats facing the Great Lakes right now. You can hear our conversations about the science behind the stories below.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/44458855&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 09:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/after-water-science-art-and-journalism-around-climate-change-110544 Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rig_DeLaCruz_SK.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>The drought in California may be thousands of miles away, but it&rsquo;s having a direct effect on the rest of the country, including the Great Lakes region. </em></p><p><em>As part of our Front &amp; Center series, we&rsquo;ll be reporting on that all week.</em><em> But first we take you back to California, which grows nearly 50 percent of the nation&rsquo;s produce.</em><em> </em></p><p><em>The situation for farmers and ranchers has become so dire there&rsquo;s a potentially dangerous drilling boom going on. Not for oil or gas. For water. </em></p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Steve Arthur practically lives out of his truck these days. But he&rsquo;s not homeless. He runs one of Fresno&rsquo;s busiest well drilling companies.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s officially getting crazy. We go and we go but it just seems like we can&rsquo;t go fast enough,&rdquo; he says, sitting behind the steering wheel as he hustles up and down Highway 99 to check on drilling rigs that run 24 hours a day, probing for water.</p><p>Some days, Arthur doesn&rsquo;t even have time to stop for gas; he&rsquo;s got an extra tank hooked up to the flatbed of his pickup. He says he&rsquo;s lucky if he gets three hours of sleep a night.</p><p>&ldquo;Toward the end of the week, I start to get run down pretty good,&rdquo; he sighs. &ldquo;On a Friday afternoon, you might see me parked on the side of the road taking a cat nap.&rdquo;</p><p>Counties in the farm-rich Central Valley are issuing record numbers of permits for new water wells. Arthur says his company&rsquo;s got an eight-month waiting list. Some of his competitors are backlogged more than a year. Drillers like Arthur say they&rsquo;re even busier than they were during the drought of 1977, when Californians drilled 28 thousand new wells.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497">Will California drought prompt a stronger Midwest food system?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;This is off the scales, here,&rdquo; says Arthur, shaking his head. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just amazing, the amount of people that call and want wells. A customer called this morning and I&rsquo;m supposed to do two for him, and he said, &lsquo;Add 14 to the list.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;You have to literally grab these guys and drag &lsquo;em to your property and say &lsquo;Please, please drill me a well!,&rsquo;&rdquo; laments citrus farmer Matt Fisher, who&rsquo;s been scrambling to keep his trees alive after learning that he won&rsquo;t get any water from federal reservoirs this year.</p><p>&ldquo;I have even heard of drilling companies that won&rsquo;t tell growers who&rsquo;s in front of them, because guys are trying to buy the other guy&rsquo;s spot in line,&rdquo; says Fisher. &ldquo;Its crazy, some of the things that are going on, but if you&rsquo;re in our shoes, and you have to pay a guy $10,000 for his spot in line, that&rsquo;s cheap compared to what you&rsquo;re going to lose if you lose your whole orchard.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s not always about losing trees, though. Right where a brand new almond orchard will be planted in rural Fresno County, a 70-foot high drilling rig bores a hole in the earth 2,500 feet deep. This well will cost the farmer about a million dollars.</p><p>Juan de La Cruz works on this rig 12 hours a day, seven days a week, carefully guiding the drill bit. He&rsquo;s standing in a little hut next to the drill hole that they call &lsquo;the doghouse.&rsquo; It&rsquo;s where workers keep a log of the layers of sand and clay they find, collecting samples every ten feet as the drill probes deeper.</p><p>It&rsquo;s also home to two other essential pieces of gear: a microwave and a fridge.</p><p>&ldquo;This is basically where we live while we&rsquo;re working,&rdquo; says De La Cruz in Spanish. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got some nopales (cacti) and zucchinis in here to cook up. The farmers bring us cantaloupes, tomatoes, whatever we want. They are so grateful because when we&rsquo;re done with this well, these fields will have water.&rdquo;</p><p>Bob Zimmerer&rsquo;s company, Zim Industries, owns this rig and a dozen others. He knows there&rsquo;s a silver lining to the drought for well drillers this year. But he knows it can&rsquo;t last forever.</p><p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t keep sustaining this amount of overdraft, we all know that,&rdquo; says Zimmerer, standing on the platform next to the drill. &ldquo;At this point in time, we don&rsquo;t want to keep going on at this pace. It&rsquo;s more of a temporary fix.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s a sobering admission from a well driller.</p><p>California&rsquo;s aquifers supply 40 percent of the state&rsquo;s water in normal years but in this drought year, it could be closer to 65 percent. That makes it our biggest water reserve &ndash;- bigger than the Sierra snowpack.</p><p>Scientists are already sounding alarm bells about pumping too much groundwater. State water managers estimate that water tables in some parts of the Valley have dropped 100 feet below historical lows. As water levels sink, the land can sink, too &mdash; in some places by about a foot per year. Groundwater pumping could also put more stress on the San Andreas Fault.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not the only seismic consequence.</p><p>&ldquo;We are a one-way trajectory towards depletion. Toward running out of groundwater in the Central Valley,&rdquo; warns Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist at UC Irvine. He points out that California is the only western state that doesn&rsquo;t really monitor or regulate how much groundwater farmers and residents are using.</p><p>&ldquo;If you own property, you can dig a well and you can pump as much groundwater as you a want,&rdquo; says Famiglietti, &ldquo;even if that means you are drawing water in from beneath your neighbor&rsquo;s property into your well. So it&rsquo;s not unlike having several straws in a glass, and everyone drinking at the same time, and no one really watching the level.&rdquo;</p><p>That could change. A bill making its way through the state legislature could, for the first time ever, require local agencies to track, and in some cases, even restrict groundwater pumping. Some farmers oppose it, saying it&rsquo;s a violation of their property rights.</p><p>But retired attorney and water activist Jerry Cadagan says counties should be thinking hard right now about the permits they&rsquo;re giving to farmers to drill thousands of new wells.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got to put reasonable restrictions so people are only pumping out a reasonable amount of water that underlies their land,&rdquo; says Cadagan, who lives in Stanislaus County, and is suing farmers there for drilling wells without considering the environmental impact. &ldquo;Groundwater is like a bank account. You can&rsquo;t take out more than you put in on an ongoing basis.&rdquo;</p><p>Farmers too, are starting to worry. In Merced County, farm leaders are trying to stop two private landowners from selling as much as 7 billion gallons of well water to farmers in another county. They call it &ldquo;groundwater mining.&rdquo;</p></p> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 05:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483 Morning Shift: How climate change is affecting the Great Lakes http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-22/morning-shift-how-climate-change-affecting-great <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr jpwbee.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We delve into a new report on the effects of climate change on the Great Lakes. Plus, what to consider as you break out the grill for the start of grilling season, and an exhibit dedicated to the music of Chicago legend Sun Ra.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-climate-change-is-affecting-the/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-climate-change-is-affecting-the.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-climate-change-is-affecting-the" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: How climate change is affecting the Great Lakes" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 22 May 2014 08:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-05-22/morning-shift-how-climate-change-affecting-great Great Lakes brace for more toxic algae http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112 <p><p><em>Update, August 4, 2014, 11:30a.m.: Officials are scrambling to address a growing algae bloom in Lake Erie that threatens the water supply of hundreds of thousands of people in parts of Michigan and Ohio. After tests at a water treatment plant showed dangerous levels of contamination, Toledo, Ohio officials&nbsp;warned residents not to use city water early Saturday. The water ban was lifted Monday, but the algae bloom isn&#39;t expected to peak until September, potentially continuing to pollute the lake that supplies drinking water for 11 million people.&nbsp;</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s spring, and the heavy snowmelt and rain is good news for farmers and scientists who have been worried about drought the last few years. But all that water has other consequences for the Great Lakes, including runoff: rainstorms carry fertilizer from farms and lawns into streams and rivers.</p><p>Much of it eventually ends up in the lakes, and when too much accumulates it can feed huge blooms of toxic algae. The problem is especially dire in Lake Erie around Toledo, Ohio, where algal blooms in 2011 and 2013 were some of the worst on record.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen the lake go from where you weren&rsquo;t even supposed to go swimming in it to what it&rsquo;s like today, and the change has been phenomenal,&rdquo; says Tim Robinette, a Toledo-area resident and longtime fisherman. &ldquo;There were places that used to literally dump their waste in the river, and it used to float on down the river back in the &lsquo;50s and &lsquo;60s. And that don&rsquo;t happen anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Lake Erie became infamous for its contamination after the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cleveland.com%2Fscience%2Findex.ssf%2F2009%2F06%2Fcuyahoga_river_fire_40_years_a.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFrwLjBkRSrEfOZxS0CiBu_HPNmSQ">Cuyahoga River caught on fire in 1969</a>; the lake&rsquo;s notoriety is credited with inspiring the passage of the federal Clean Water Act as well as the creation of Earth Day. And Lake Erie&rsquo;s comeback has been equally legendary: point source pollution from factories and sewage systems was cleaned up to a great extent by the 1990s.</p><p>In the 2000s, though, algal blooms began to reappear in the lake, bringing with them dead zones, bad smells and water that was once again risky to consume even in small amounts. In 2011, following a spring of particularly extreme rains, the algae blooms in Lake Erie grew to more than 5,000 square kilometers&mdash;three times the previous record. That got the attention of the International Joint Commission, the U.S. and Canadian body that has monitored the lakes for more than a century. They worked on <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijc.org%2Ffiles%2Fpublications%2F2014%2520IJC%2520LEEP%2520REPORT.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL7GD6q-OXSzaquvJC8_DaPA47IQ">a major report</a> released this spring urging states and provinces to take immediate action to curb runoff.</p><p><strong>The green goblin</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Well, it looks kind of like green goo, you know, like thick, like pea soup-type green,&rdquo; says Carol Stepien, a biologist at the University of Toledo&rsquo;s Lake Erie Center, which overlooks the Maumee Bay.</p><p>The gooey muck she&rsquo;s talking about is blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, which, when it&rsquo;s overfed by fertilizers in the water, can grow into blooms that are dangerous to drink or even touch. In recent years cyanobacteria has poisoned multiple pets who drank from the lake, and last summer it <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.toledoblade.com%2Flocal%2F2013%2F09%2F15%2FCarroll-Township-s-scare-with-toxin-a-wake-up-call.html&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFoUOuLh5_aFgTbMxEWSmrMHbEGTA">shut down a water treatment system in a township near Toledo</a>.</p><p>When the algae decomposes there&rsquo;s another problem: it eats up oxygen, and that creates dead zones in the lake where no fish or plants can live, an effect called hypoxia.</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/Copy%20of%20DSCN1768.JPG" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right;" title="The Maumee River runs from the west through Toledo and into Lake Erie, carrying fertilizer runoff from rural and urban sources with it." /></div><p>Stepien explains that the Maumee River, a large river that runs through the middle of Toledo and into the bay, carries fertilizer runoff from up to 150 miles away. The Maumee Bay is a particularly warm, shallow part of the lake, and as runoff gathers, the algae becomes a well-fed monster.</p><p>But this isn&rsquo;t some mysterious green goblin. Stepien says the problem can be traced primarily to phosphorus, an ingredient in commercial fertilizers that&rsquo;s also found in manure, and sewer overflows from municipal water systems. The trouble is identifying and stemming the sources of the phosphorus.</p><p>&ldquo;This is water that&rsquo;s coming in from many many places, it can&rsquo;t be pinpointed to a single pipe or certain pipes,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><strong>Golf greens can&rsquo;t be brown</strong></p><p>Sources can&rsquo;t be pinpointed individually, but the potential sources are widely known. Among them are lawns and golf courses that use commercial fertilizers. Just a couple miles away from the lake, there&rsquo;s a golf course right along the river.</p><p>&ldquo;Golf courses get a bad rap for the leaching issue,&rdquo; says Tim Glorioso, the golf course manager at the Toledo Country Club. He admits people who come here don&rsquo;t want their greens to be brown, and a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eifg.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F07%2Fgolf-course-environmental-profile-nutrient-report.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEgmkTGFSZ4oHA9FXxlx8sHFw-UGg">2009 survey of golf course managers</a> found the average golf course puts down 65 pounds of phosphorus per acre each year, and even more pounds of nitrogen.</p><p>Glorioso, though, says he uses a lot less.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Copy of DSCN1661.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Tim Glorioso is the director of golf course operations at the Toledo Country Club." />&ldquo;With the way budgets are right now, why would you go out and put more phosphorus down and more nitrogen than you need to? It doesn&rsquo;t make sense, economically,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Glorioso monitors the phosphorus in the soil constantly, and says he only puts on the amount the grass can absorb. Timing matters too &mdash; simple stuff like not putting down nutrients on frozen ground, or right before a storm. He attends continuing education classes during the winter months and thinks responsible management practices can lessen golf courses&rsquo; contribution to the algae problem. But he admits that not everyone is quite so diligent.</p><p>&ldquo;We have some people that probably don&rsquo;t do what they&rsquo;re supposed to do,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><strong>Some farmers resist regulation</strong></p><p>Most of the area that drains into the Maumee River isn&rsquo;t golf courses or suburban lawns: it&rsquo;s farms. There are miles and miles of them &mdash; mainly corn, wheat and soybeans &mdash; from Toledo all the way up the Maumee River and its tributaries, which extend into Indiana and Michigan.</p><p>&ldquo;We could argue back and forth about is it urban, is it yards, is it agriculture, is it municipal water systems,&rdquo; says Tadd Nicholson with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. &ldquo;I prefer to say it&rsquo;s all of those things.&rdquo;</p><p>Corn has been booming recently due to ethanol production, so farmers are planting to the very edges of fields, and at least some of them are laying the fertilizer down thick. But Nicholson says the corn industry is producing more corn per acre while also using less fertilizer than it did a few decades ago. In other words, corn can&rsquo;t be solely to blame for the resurgence of algal blooms. And, like Glorioso, he says education and voluntary programs to reduce runoff are as beneficial for the industry as they are for the lake.</p><p>&ldquo;If we can show farmers how to minimize phosphorus runoff, it&rsquo;s not a hard sell, it&rsquo;s something that we are very motivated to do,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that over-applying fertilizer isn&rsquo;t against any laws in Ohio, and agriculture in particular has long been <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww2.epa.gov%2Fsites%2Fproduction%2Ffiles%2F2014-03%2Fdocuments%2Fcwa_ag_exclusions_exemptions.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNFYv09n7PPIYQ7Xb7QphYUC8zJFTA">exempted from aspects of the Clean Water Act</a>; the industry has also pushed back against water quality regulations for runoff. There&rsquo;s a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Faglaw.osu.edu%2Fblog%2Ffri-01242014-1326%2Fohio-senate-approves-agricultural-nutrient-management-bill&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGZUgzhOTYx7EZmczbUTnJ4dMfOqg">bill pending in the Ohio legislature</a> that would require agricultural users of fertilizer to apply for a permit. It has the support of the Ohio Farm Bureau, but not the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. And even that law is not really a set of rules but a required educational program. In Illinois, a 2010 law restricting the use of phosphorus in fertilizer exempts farms and golf courses.</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/Copy%20of%20DSCN1775.JPG" title="Runoff into the Maumee River comes from diffuse sources: urban stormwater and sewer overflows, agricultural runoff, and private lawns and golf courses." /></div><p><strong>&lsquo;When you look at Lake Erie, it breaks your heart&rsquo;</strong></p><p>Cities like Chicago and Toledo are under federal order to reduce sewer runoff&nbsp; through extensive infrastructure upgrades, and manure runoff, which is also a contributor, is more tightly regulated than farms. The IJC report finds the need for more research and monitoring to establish clear best practices for reducing runoff from all sources, and the agriculture industry in particular has posited the need for more research as a reason to hold off stringent regulation.</p><p>&ldquo;We would never allow a dump truck full of manure to back up and dump into the lakes,&rdquo; says Lana Pollack, the U.S. chair for the IJC. She refutes the idea that there&rsquo;s not enough research to take action on the issue. &ldquo;The science is there, we understand the cause, we understand the effect, and we understand that no one should have a choice whether or not to harm Lake Erie or any of the other lakes.&rdquo;</p><p>Lake Erie is far from the only body of water that&rsquo;s been affected: smaller lakes throughout the region have seen algae blooms in recent years. Last year, the bay of Green Bay Wisconsin was literally green. And there may not be an algae bloom off Chicago&rsquo;s Navy Pier yet, but that&rsquo;s because <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fillinois.sierraclub.org%2Fconservation%2Fwater%2Fnutrients.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNH9Lknjq4XxrRhehMxjWLvrrn85Lw">most of Illinois&rsquo; runoff drains to the Gulf of Mexico</a>. In the past, that&rsquo;s helped create a dead zone there larger than the state of New Jersey. Smaller lakes and ponds throughout the midwest are susceptible to algal blooms during the summer months.</p><p>Climate change is also intensifying the algal blooms. Algae prefer warmer temperatures, and more intense rainstorms mean more intense runoff.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijc.org%2Ffiles%2Fpublications%2F2014%2520IJC%2520LEEP%2520REPORT.pdf&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL7GD6q-OXSzaquvJC8_DaPA47IQ">IJC report</a> recommends that Ontario, Canada and the states in the Lake Erie basin set new targets for reducing phosphorus runoff in Lake Erie. That could lead to more regulation on farms as well as septic system owners and urban water treatment systems.</p><p>&ldquo;One community shouldn&rsquo;t be able to decimate the resources that are so important to everyone,&rdquo; Pollack says. &ldquo;If you look at Lake Erie, it breaks your heart.&rdquo;</p><p>She also says there&rsquo;s no silver bullet, no single solution or single cause. There was <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.discovery.com%2Fearth%2Fweather-extreme-events%2Fsnowfall-setting-records-in-major-cities-140405.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGXFiLMKp6e_QuEL1trGFNCQURulg">a record amount of snow and ice this year around Toledo</a>, and it&rsquo;s all been melting, running off and bringing phosphorus with it.</p><p>Back down on the Maumee river bank, cold, clear water rushes out of a broken drainage pipe and into the river. In a couple hours, it&rsquo;ll be in Lake Erie.</p><p><em><a href="http://wyso.org/people/lewis-wallace">Lewis Wallace is a reporter for WYSO</a>, the public radio station for Dayton, Springfield and Yellow Springs, Ohio.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by the Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Apr 2014 15:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/great-lakes-brace-more-toxic-algae-110112 Have your say: Lake Michigan vs. Chicago River http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/have-your-say-lake-michigan-vs-chicago-river-109317 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/132056571&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note:&nbsp;</em><em>Reporter Chris Bentley provided question-asker Devon Neff and his friend, Abby Ristow, with some homework; the idea was that reporting and insightful interviews could settle the pair&#39;s high-minded water fight. In the <a href="https://soundcloud.com/curiouscity/smackdowns-lake-michigan?in=curiouscity/sets/curious-city-podcasts" target="_blank">&quot;Smackdowns&quot;</a> podcast episode, you can hear the friends&#39; final take. In most circumstances, Curious City encourages peace among our readers, but here we hope you&#39;ll keep the fight brewing by voting in our </em><em><a href="#Poll">poll</a>&nbsp;and encouraging others to do so. <a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewanalytics" target="_blank">Current results</a>&nbsp;</em><em>are available if you&#39;d like to remain a bystander!</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p>Like so many questions for the ages, this Curious City query started as a bar debate. Our questioner Devon Neff and his friend Abby Ristow wanted to know:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Which is more important to Chicago (historically and today): Lake Michigan or the Chicago River?</em></p><p>Even though they&rsquo;ve argued this since last April, the issue still isn&rsquo;t settled.</p><p>&ldquo;She took the river and I took the lake, and we were very adamant about our discussion at the time,&rdquo; Devon said. &ldquo;I just see the lake as being more of an asset to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>His view of the lake from his apartment in downtown&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/aqua-tower" target="_blank"> Aqua Tower</a> might be a factor in his opinion. Abby acknowledged the river&rsquo;s got a bit of a checkered past (<a href="http://www.chicagojournal.com/News/09-16-2009/There_are_still_bubbles" target="_blank">bubbly creek</a>, anyone?), but she said that isn&rsquo;t the whole story.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve used it so much that we&rsquo;ve almost gotten it to the point of ruin. But I think it&rsquo;s changing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;For me it&rsquo;s changing, but I&rsquo;m always a cheerleader for the underdog.&rdquo;</p><p>Whenever possible, we at Curious City like to settle things, but it&rsquo;s hard to be definitive in this case. Our editor, Shawn Allee, has been pulling his hair out over how broad this question is. And Devon and Abby&rsquo;s seemingly ironclad positions changed throughout our initial interview.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m actually torn,&rdquo; Devon admitted as we wrapped up the discussion. &ldquo;The more and more I think about it, I&rsquo;m really not sure if I&rsquo;m for one or the other.&rdquo;</p><p>Abby chimed in with a similar equivocation: &ldquo;I think specific to Chicago the river has more of an impact. But the region? The lake.&rdquo;</p><p>Almost <a href="#Audio">everyone we talked to</a> &mdash; shipping people, environmentalists, kayakers, even Mayor Rahm Emanuel &mdash; was hard pressed to pick one over the other. Even those that were for the lake or the river usually added the caveat that we&rsquo;d be remiss to discount the other entirely.</p><p>&ldquo;It was the confluence between the river and the lake, and the connection we could make to the Mississippi River that was what was important,&rdquo; said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River.</p><p>So we&rsquo;re acknowledging right up front that the lake and the river work together, inextricably. Still, we need an answer.</p><p>So, what to do? Well, we&rsquo;re going to let you settle this one &mdash; with some help. We&rsquo;ve gathered facts on the waterways&rsquo; relative importance to our city and region below, as well as words of wisdom from a few people who work with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/lake-michigan" target="_blank">Lake Michigan</a> and the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-river" target="_blank">Chicago River</a>.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s how you can help:</p><ul><li><p>Read and listen to the evidence: <a href="#Water">Water</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Shipping">Shipping</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Pop">Pop culture and symbolism</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Recreation">Recreation</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Natural">Natural resources investment</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#Infrastructure">Infrastructure investment</a>. (For folks who love audio homework, we have <a href="#Audio">interviews with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others</a>)&nbsp;</p></li><li><p>Participate in <a href="#Poll">our poll</a>!</p></li><li><p>Call our hotline: 1-888-789-7752. (Leave concise comments, please. Who wins: The lake? The river? Why?)</p></li><li><p>Leave a comment at the bottom of this page.</p></li></ul><p><a name="Water"><strong>Water &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="float: left; margin: 5px; width: 50px; height: 50px;" title="" />Before we dive in too deep, the lake has one very big thing going for it; namely, it&rsquo;s the region&rsquo;s principal source of drinking water. More than 26 million people drink from the Great Lakes, including residents in Chicago and many of its suburbs.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="float: left; margin: 5px; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />But the river has also served an important purpose: In addition to connecting Lake Michigan to inland waterways, it&rsquo;s long served <a href="http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/episode-86-reversal-of-fortune/" target="_blank">as an engineered extension of the city&#39;s sewer system</a>. Its<a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976" target="_blank"> famous reversal in the 19th century</a> enabled the continued growth of a metropolis on the make that might otherwise have choked on its own waste. (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/jeanne-gang-and-henry-henderson-conversation-steve-edwards-94213" target="_blank">There&#39;s talk now of re-reversing the river</a>, which some say could spur another revitalization.)</p><p>So both serve a vital function to the city&rsquo;s daily life.</p><p><a name="Shipping"><strong>Shipping</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river 2.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />&ldquo;I would answer that from a broad and multi-state/national perspective, there is no doubt that the Lake itself is far more significant,&rdquo; said Stuart Theis, executive director of The United States Great Lakes Shipping Association. &ldquo;That said, certainly [the Chicago River] has much to do with commercial activity which takes place in Lake Michigan and in particular, Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago River<a href="http://www.navigationdatacenter.us/wcsc/webpub11/Part3_WWYs_tonsbycommCY2011.HTM" target="_blank"> saw more than 2 million short tons of cargo in 2011</a>, the last year for which data is available. Chicago is only the 34th most trafficked port in the country based on total cargo, but it is the second most popular in the Great Lakes (Duluth-Superior on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border is 21st in the country, with 35 million tons in 2011 compared to Chicago&rsquo;s 20 million). A lot of the bulk freight traffic at Chicago&rsquo;s port actually moves between the city and inland ports, staying out of the Great Lakes entirely. In 2011 Chicago handled about five times as much domestic freight as foreign.</p><p>But with highways, railroads and two major airports nearby, the port of Chicago could support more waterborne movement of cargo. In July Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2013/july_2013/mayor_emanuel_governorquinnannouncenewportauthoritymanagmentplan.html" target="_blank"> announced plans</a> to spend $500 million updating the Port District over the next 10 years.</p><p>The connection between the river and the lake is still critical for shipping. Hear more from Delbert &quot;Del&quot; Wilkins, president of Illinois Marine Towing, Inc. in Lemont, Ill:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118317&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Pop"><strong>Pop culture and symbolism</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />The river is on <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d2/Chicago-muni-flag.png" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s flag</a>, in the form of two horizontal blue stripes. It&rsquo;s also the inspiration for<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-municipal-device-citys-symbol-lurking-plain-sight-107637" target="_blank"> the Y-shaped &ldquo;municipal device&rdquo; found throughout the city</a>, including on the Chicago Theater marquee and inside the Cultural Center.</p><p>Hollywood also loves the river. Of course, the Blues Brothers <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTOg4aYGtdY" target="_blank">jumped the Chicago River</a>. And in <em>The Hunter (1980)</em>, actor Steve McQueen&rsquo;s last flick,a driver<a href="http://www.marinacityonline.com/history/you_parked.htm" target="_blank"> famously flung a green Grand Prix Pontiac off the 17th floor of Marina City</a>, plunging it into the water.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/JFEELqtNzGE" width="420"></iframe></p><p>Director Andrew Davis featured the river in <em>The Fugitive</em> as well as other films. He waxed poetic about this for the documentary <em><a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0252319/" target="_blank">Chicago Filmmakers on the Chicago River</a></em>. &ldquo;Almost every movie I&rsquo;ve done has shown some part of this river just because it is a vein of life in the city,&rdquo; Davis told documentarian D.P. Carlson. &ldquo;I think that showing the bridges, and the roads, the major roadways and the river is part of the blood of the city. It makes the city tick.&rdquo;</p><p>That visual fascination doesn&rsquo;t end with the pros. The tag &ldquo;Chicago River&rdquo; on the photo sharing site Flickr<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/chicagoriver/" target="_blank"> returns nearly 34,000 results</a>. &nbsp;&ldquo;Lake Michigan&rdquo; turned up more than 256,000, but that isn&rsquo;t specific to Chicago. &ldquo;Chicago Lakefront&rdquo; produced 2,269 uploads. But maybe people are using different tags (and just &ldquo;lakefront&rdquo; is too generic).</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Skyline shots often include the lake &mdash; say, from the popular photo spot in front of the Adler Planetarium &mdash; and Navy Pier, the state&rsquo;s biggest tourist attraction, is obviously lake-centric. The river does host the very popular architecture boat tours, though.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="Recreation"><strong>Recreation</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Biking and jogging<a href="http://www.choosechicago.com/articles/view/The-Lakefront-Trail/454/" target="_blank"> along the 18-mile lakefront trail</a> is one of the more popular activities for tourists and locals alike, at least when the weather&rsquo;s nice. Beaches along Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-how-has-chicago%E2%80%99s-coastline-changed-over-decades-104328" target="_blank"> &quot;forever open, clear and free&quot; shoreline</a> are packed during the warm months, a unique condition Joel Brammeier, president of Alliance for the Great Lakes, pointed out while singing the lakefront&rsquo;s praise.</p><p>Brammeier said the open lakefront is &ldquo;the envy of communities around the world.&rdquo; But it only got that way because of a series of careful decisions:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118170&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />A lot of people still cringe at the thought of Chicago River water, but its quality has improved dramatically in recent decades. Since the Clean Water Act of 1972,<a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/2009/08/the-chicago-river-is-too-dirty-to-be-useable/" target="_blank"> the number of fish species in the river has gone from 10 to 70</a>.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/feds-okay-chicago-river-cleanup-93801" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency approved Illinois&#39; new water quality standards</a> for the river recently, requiring the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to start disinfecting the waste it pumps into the sanitary canal.<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/alison-cuddy/2012-03-21/can-cultural-resources-help-spur-different-future-chicago-river-97515" target="_blank"> The river should even be clean enough to swim in by 2016</a>!</p><p>Our question asker Abby Ristow has kayaked a few times, but I asked Ryan Chew, who founded Chicago River Canoe &amp; Kayak in 2001, how recreation along the river has changed since then. He said it&rsquo;s up dramatically, and he thinks that&rsquo;s because the river provides an unexpected connection to nature in the middle of the city:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118169&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p>Margaret Frisbie from Friends of the Chicago River made a similar point about seeing the city from the lake and from the river. She admitted the view from the lake captures Chicago&rsquo;s grandeur. But she says the river provides something different and, perhaps, more valuable:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118321&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Natural"><strong>Natural resources investments</strong></a></p><p>Recently, several groups have called attention to the economic benefits of investing in both natural resources.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/report-drop-money-river-watch-it-float-back-107107" target="_blank">A report commissioned by Friends of the Chicago River and Openlands said each dollar invested in the river provides a 70 percent return</a>.</p><p>Likewise <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2007/09/04gleiecosystem-austin" target="_blank">a Brookings Institution analysis</a> said fully implementing the Great Lakes restoration strategy, which includes cleaning up pollution and preserving fisheries, would generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity.</p><p>Even though he picked the lake, Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council points out its value to the city is only guaranteed through constant and long-term investment &mdash; the kind he hopes the city will make in the river, too:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123134710&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p><a name="Infrastructure"><strong>Infrastructure investments</strong></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LAKE%20FINAL.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />Plenty has happened along the lakefront. The 31st Street Harbor<a href="http://www.wbez.org/chicago-unveils-new-south-side-boat-harbor-99912" target="_blank"> opened in 2012</a>, and<a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-30/morning-shift-revamping-lake-shore-drive-108220" target="_blank"> plans to revamp Lake Shore Drive</a> could include more park space, as well as additional routes for bicyclists. Some 600 lakefront acres formerly home to U.S. Steel&rsquo;s South Works plant could become a futuristic community that developers<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/lakeside-development" target="_blank"> U.S. Steel and McCaffery Interests have dubbed Lakeside</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%202.png" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 50px; width: 50px;" title="" />But there&rsquo;s obviously a lot going on with the river these days, too, and even Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the river&rsquo;s catching up. He has<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2012/october_2012/mayor_emanuel_announcesplanstocompletechicagoriverwalk.html" target="_blank"> called the river</a> &ldquo;our second shoreline,&rdquo; and plans to continue an ongoing shift from industrial land use to recreation along the river:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123118170&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="350"></iframe></p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s much-touted plan to extend the riverwalk downtown is the clear centerpiece: between State and Lake Streets, six themed areas like<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/bridge/general/TheMarina.pdf" target="_blank"> The Marina</a> and<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/bridge/general/TheRiverTheater.pdf" target="_blank"> The River Theater</a> are meant to attract businesses and pedestrians and give the riverfront a sense of place all its own. Construction on that could<a href="http://blog.archpaper.com/wordpress/archives/72708" target="_blank"> start soon</a>.</p><p>Three private developments where the main branch splits &mdash; Wolf Point, River Point, and 150 N. Riverside &mdash; all include landscaped parks at their bases, celebrating to varying extents their place along the Chicago River.<a name="Poll"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewform?embedded=true" width="620">Loading...</iframe>;</p><hr /><br /><h2><a href="https://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/forms/d/1UXSprLzQKqkThqcCOCbjuCAtNzz8xCG6TdU0gjxuAyY/viewanalytics" target="_blank">Selected poll results</a></h2><p>&nbsp;</p><p><script type="text/javascript" src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/static/modules/gviz/1.0/chart.js"> {"dataSourceUrl":"//docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/tq?key=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdEJQX25aMFUtdWpPcjE3OU1rUXJXNWc&transpose=0&headers=0&range=B1%3AC101&gid=0&pub=1","options":{"vAxes":[{"title":"Left vertical axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null},{"useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}],"titleTextStyle":{"fontSize":16},"title":"Chart title","booleanRole":"certainty","height":320,"animation":{"duration":500},"page":"enable","width":620,"pageSize":5,"annotations":{"domain":{"style":"line"}},"hAxis":{"title":"Horizontal axis title","useFormatFromData":true,"minValue":null,"viewWindow":{"min":null,"max":null},"maxValue":null}},"state":{},"view":{"columns":[0,{"label":"","properties":{"role":"annotation"},"sourceColumn":1}]},"isDefaultVisualization":false,"chartType":"Table","chartName":"Chart 1"} </script></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a name="Audio"></a><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/16414907&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><br /><em>Chris Bentley is a reporter for Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Dec 2013 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/have-your-say-lake-michigan-vs-chicago-river-109317 Feds update plan to protect Great Lakes from carp http://www.wbez.org/news/feds-update-plan-protect-great-lakes-carp-108163 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP181239591861.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. &mdash; A federal plan for keeping hungry Asian carp from reaching the valuable fish populations of the Great Lakes calls for reinforcing electrical and other barriers currently in place and for field-testing other methods, including the use of water guns and hormonal fish love potions.</p><p>The Obama administration made improving its network of barriers a primary focus of an updated blueprint for keeping bighead and silver carp from reaching the five inland seas, even as they continue infesting the Mississippi River and many of its tributaries. The Associated Press obtained an outline of the government&#39;s $50 million plan ahead of its official release later Wednesday.</p><p>&quot;This strategy continues our aggressive effort to bolster our tools to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes while we work toward a long-term solution,&quot; said John Goss of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who oversees the anti-carp initiative. &quot;The 2013 framework will strengthen our defenses against Asian carp and move innovative carp control projects from research to field trials to implementation.&quot;</p><p>The much-maligned carp were imported decades ago to clear algae from fish farms and sewage lagoons in the Deep South. They escaped during floods and have migrated northward, gobbling huge amounts of plankton &mdash; tiny plants and animals that virtually all fish eat at some point. Scientists differ about how widely they would spread in the Great Lakes, but under worst-case scenarios they would occupy large areas and severely disrupt the $7 billion fishing industry.</p><p>With this year&#39;s spending, the administration will have devoted $200 million over four years to keep the Great Lakes carp-free. But many state officials and advocacy groups contend that the only sure way to prevent invasive species from migrating between the lakes and the Mississippi system is to build dams or other structures near Chicago, where a man-made canal links the two giant watersheds by forming a pathway between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River.</p><p>Under pressure from Congress, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has promised to release by year&#39;s end a short list of options for slamming the door, although such a project could require many years and billions of dollars.</p><p>In the meantime, federal officials say an electric fish barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal 37 miles southwest of the city is keeping the carp at bay. Critics note that dozens of water samples taken beyond the barrier have tested positive for Asian carp DNA, although just one live carp has been found there.</p><p>The barrier consists of three metal bars at the bottom of the canal that emit electric pulses to repel fish or jolt those that refuse to turn back.</p><p>Under the administration&#39;s plan, a new section would be added this year to replace a demonstration model installed a decade ago. Two segments at a time will operate, with the third on standby.</p><p>To supplement the stationary barrier, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will oversee design and construction of a mobile electric device that can be dragged behind a boat like a curtain. It could be used in Chicago rivers and canals or elsewhere to herd fish away from places where they don&#39;t belong.</p><p>The plan also calls for rebuilding a ditch berm to support a chain-link fence in a marshy area near Fort Wayne, Ind., that has been identified as a potential link between the carp-infested Wabash River and the Maumee River, which flows into Lake Erie. Studies suggest that Erie could be particularly vulnerable to a carp invasion because its shallow, warm waters are hospitable to fish.</p><p>Other barriers are planned for the Ohio Erie Canal and Little Killbuck Creek in Medina County, Ohio, which have been identified as potential crossover points for invaders.</p><p>Additionally, federal agencies will continue developing and testing other methods of catching, killing and controlling the unwanted fish. Methods on the drawing board range from toxins that target Asian carp to water guns and specially designed nets. Scientists also are developing ways to use pheromones &mdash; chemicals secreted by fish to attract mates &mdash; to lure Asian carp to where they could be netted or killed.</p><p>Teams also will expand water sampling areas in southern Lake Michigan, western Lake Erie and other likely invasion spots. Other experts are scheduled to complete a study of whether positive DNA hits mean live Asian carp were actually present.</p><p>&quot;Much progress has been made in the development and refinement of Asian carp detection and control tools and in the understanding of the food and habitat required for Asian carp reproduction and survival,&quot; said Leon Carl, Midwest Region Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. The goal now is to &quot;get these new technologies and information into the hands of managers and other decision makers,&quot; he said.</p></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/feds-update-plan-protect-great-lakes-carp-108163 Deep cuts proposed to funding for Great Lakes http://www.wbez.org/news/deep-cuts-proposed-funding-great-lakes-108157 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Great Lakes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A U.S. house subcommittee proposed a bill that would reduce the <a href="http://greatlakesrestoration.us/">Great Lakes Restoration Initiative</a> budget from $285 million dollars to just $60 million, a nearly 80% cut.</p><p>&ldquo;When we first saw these numbers I could surmise that somebody miscounted and thought there was just one Great Lake,&rdquo; said Todd Ambs, the campaign director for the <a href="http://healthylakes.org/about/">Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.</a></p><p>Since 2009, the initiative has tackled some of the Great Lakes&rsquo; biggest ecological problems, including <a href="http://greatlakesrestoration.us/projects/index.html">invasive species, runoff, and contamination.</a> Many proponents say the initiative will become even more important with climate change, which will have a drastic impact on the lakes.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got these toxic hot spots that need to be cleaned up. And if we don&rsquo;t do it now it&rsquo;s just going to cost more in the future&rdquo; said Ambs.</p><p>The Great Lakes funding was not alone in the potentially drastic <a href="http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-113hr-sc-ap-fy2014-interior-subcommitteedraft.pdf">cutbacks.</a> The bill proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency&#39;s budget by over 30% and the National Endowment for the Arts&rsquo; budget by nearly 50%.</p><p>Sub-committee representatives said the bill made the hard choice of cutting &ldquo;<a href="http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=343384">nice to have&rdquo; programs, in order to save &ldquo;need to have&rdquo; programs.</a> But Joel Brammeier, president of the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>, said that even in this tough budget year, programs like the Great Lakes Initiative are singled out for disproportionate cuts. &nbsp;&quot;Cuts of this magnitude would bring Great Lakes programs to a halt,&quot; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">The bill is unlikely to be discussed by the full house until this fall, at which point it could be drastically revised during continuous budget negotiations in both the House and Senate. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan reports for WBEZ. You can follow her<a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h"> @shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 16:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/deep-cuts-proposed-funding-great-lakes-108157 Gov. Pat Quinn open to Great Lakes, Mississippi basin separation http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/gov-pat-quinn-open-great-lakes-mississippi-basin-separation-107523 <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/Conceptual-rendering-of-a-physical-barrier-%28HDR%2C-Inc.%29.jpg" title="A conceptual rendering of a physical barrier and cargo transport station. Though initially costly, such a system would prevent economic turmoil from invasive species and create other benefits, proponents say. (HDR, Inc.)" /></div><p>In <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/asian-carp-might-have-entered-lakes-so-what-106613" target="_blank">the perennial battle to keep Asian carp and other riverborne invaders out of the Great Lakes</a>, one intervention is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/un-reversing-chicago-river-88976" target="_blank">often proposed as the only long-term solution</a>: separate the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds.</p><p>Or, put another way: <a href="http://www.glc.org/caws/reportimages/CAWS-historicflowca1900-800pxw.jpg" target="_blank">restore the divide</a> that existed until <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-12/postcard-historical-glimpse-reversal-chicago-river-89000" target="_blank">engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River during the 19th century</a>, a feat that earned Chicago its can-do reputation and paved the way for the city&rsquo;s explosive growth.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn <a href="http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_GREAT_LAKES_GOVERNORS?SITE=AP&amp;SECTION=HOME&amp;TEMPLATE=DEFAULT" target="_blank">took the appreciable and unexpected step of endorsing, to some extent, the &quot;ultimate solution&quot;</a> of basin separation during a conference of the Council of Great Lakes Governors last week. It&rsquo;s a controversial position, as creating a system of physical barriers in the Chicago Area Waterway System would cost billions of dollars.</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/CAWS-allbarriers-750pxw.jpg" style="height: 490px; width: 610px;" title="Possible points of intervention. The study group that produced this map determined the Mid-System alternative provides the best bang for the buck — $4.27 billion bucks, to be exact. (Great Lakes Commission)" /></div><p>Critics say physical separation would cost communities along the industrial corridor that surrounds the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Blocking shipping lanes, for example, would disrupt barge traffic. Although it is a fraction of what it once was, shipping on the canal would need to change significantly, perhaps transferring cargo to freight trains.</p><p>And some worry even a physical barrier would do little to interrupt the most important vector of invasive species: human transport. <a href="http://www.annualreviews.org/eprint/RVivFUwWAidsIA7P6zAV/full/10.1146/annurev-marine-120710-100952" target="_blank">A recent survey of Great Lakes invaders since 1936</a> found only two species, the alewife and sea lamprey, made their way into the Great Lakes by swimming. The vast majority were &ldquo;unintentionally transported or released.&rdquo;</p><p>But others argue separation will generate significant benefits beyond stopping the spread of Asian carp. Waste from Chicago winds its way down the Mississippi, ending up in the Gulf of Mexico. Barrier locations could also house water treatment equipment, and returning some of that flow to Lake Michigan might even slightly <a href="http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/a-dutch-approach-to-flood-and-drought-management-takes-root-in-st.-louis?fb_action_ids=10101031603390335&amp;fb_action_types=og.likes&amp;fb_source=aggregation&amp;fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582" target="_blank">ease flooding downstream</a>.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.studiogang.net/publication/2011/reverse_effect" target="_blank">Reverse Effect</a></em>, a project by Chicago architects Studio Gang, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard University&rsquo;s Graduate School of Design, investigated how a barrier in the Chicago River&rsquo;s south branch could &ldquo;connect and recharge surrounding neighborhoods&rdquo; both culturally and economically.</p><p>Quinn and several governors <a href="http://greatlakesecho.org/2013/06/03/can-snyder-and-quinn-revive-dormant-great-lakes-governors/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+greatlakesecho%2Fall+%28Great+Lakes+Echo+%28All%29%29" target="_blank">met in Mackinac Island, Mich. to discuss a range of Great Lakes economic and environmental issues</a> &mdash; the first time so many Great Lakes governors convened around the topic in eight years. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence maintained his state&rsquo;s opposition to separating the basins, citing economic concerns.</p><p>With Asian carp <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/asian-carp-might-have-entered-lakes-so-what-106613" target="_blank">on Lake Michigan&#39;s doorstep already</a>, many ecologists say now is the time to act. Next year the Army Corps of Engineers will make a recommendation on Asian carp, and separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi will be among the options. Quinn&rsquo;s unexpected remarks Saturday encouraged those in favor of separation, but belied a divided group of Great Lakes governors.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 12:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/gov-pat-quinn-open-great-lakes-mississippi-basin-separation-107523 Heavy rain overwhelms combined sewer system http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://www.mwrd.org/irj/portal/anonymous?NavigationTarget=navurl://eec9b2f677d42e0dea742ba5e2b45713" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cso%20april%2018.png" style="height: 700px; width: 610px;" title="The red shows unconfirmed combined sewer overflows on April 18. (Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)" /></a></div><p>Inundated by nearly 5 inches of rain in less than 36 hours, Chicago water officials have <a href="../../news/rain-causes-flooding-delays-and-sinkhole-106711">had to &quot;re-reverse&quot; the flow of the Chicago River</a>, opening the large gates that separate Lake Michigan from the river to relieve pressure on a sewer system swollen with runoff and waste.</p><p>As <em>Chicago Magazine</em>&rsquo;s Whet Moser reported, <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/April-2013/Chicagos-Torrential-Rains-Fill-Deep-Tunnel-Burst-Water-Mains/">the deluge has easily outpaced recent upgrades to the city&#39;s water and sewage infrastructure</a>. Michael Hawthorne of the <em>Chicago Tribune </em><a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-12-15/news/ct-met-chicago-river-sewage-overflows-20111215_1_deep-tunnel-flood-and-pollution-control-project-green-infrastructure-projects">reported in 2011 that Lake Michigan had been hit with more sewage in recent years than the previous two decades combined</a>.</p><p>The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District said Thursday that its 109-mile network of tunnels and reservoirs was 100 percent full. The Mainstream Tunnel was full by 12:31 a.m., while the Des Plaines Tunnel filled up at 3:30 a.m. Built to contain 2.3 billion gallons, the system hit capacity and poured enough stormwater and sewage into Chicago-area waterways to help raise their levels higher than Lake Michigan. Following protocol, MWRD tried to relieve some of that pressure by dumping the tainted water into the lake.</p><p>Contaminants can spread <a href="http://www.greatlakesmapping.org/great_lake_stressors/7/combined-sewer-overflows">kilometers away from shore</a>. MWRD has asked residents to minimize their water use to help ease the strain on the heavily burdened system. Not that it&#39;s a great day for a swim, anyway, but you might not want to hit the beach, either.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.greatlakesmapping.org/great_lake_stressors/7/combined-sewer-overflows" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CSOs%20great%20lakes%20map%20GLEAM.jpg" style="height: 471px; width: 610px;" title="Combined sewer overflows across the Great Lakes. (Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project)" /></a></div><p>Chicago&rsquo;s sewer problems may be stark, but they are not unique. <a href="http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/cso/cpolicy_report2004.cfm">A 2004 EPA report to Congress</a> found Chicago&rsquo;s overflows plagued mainly by bacteria, while the city of Toledo, Ohio suffered pollution from copper, lead, silver and zinc. Water samples taken near Toledo&#39;s sewer outfalls showed effects of chronic toxicity. A 2010 <a href="http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/Reports/Archive/2010/Turning-The-Tide-Great-Lakes-Sewage.aspx">study by the National Wildlife Federation</a> found cities around the Great Lakes discharged 41 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the lakes in 2009, with Chicago and Detroit leading the way.</p><p>There has been some progress. Detroit has decreased sewer overflows by 80 percent below 1995 levels by adding capacity, but had to back off its own deep tunnel project in 2009 <a href="http://www.tunneltalk.com/Detroit-outfall-Apr09-Detroit-outfall-contract-terminated.php">due to lack of funding</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s waterways have cleared up, too, but face a murky future. The total number of fish species found in the Chicago and Calumet river system <a href="http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/csossoRTC2004_chapter05.pdf">increased six-fold between 1974, around the time that MWRD upgraded their facilities, and 2001</a>. But the Deep Tunnel project originally meant to help the system avoid overflows <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-21/news/ct-met-deep-tunnel-climate-change-20110420_1_climate-change-sewers-deep-tunnel-project">won&rsquo;t be complete until 2029, and may still be inadequate</a> in the face of <a href="www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174">floods pumped up by climate change</a>.</p></p> Thu, 18 Apr 2013 16:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731