Environment and Sustainability | WGLT

Environment and Sustainability

Judith Valente / WGLT

Lake Bloomington is the main source of drinking water for the city of Bloomington. The lake is also a popular recreation destination. In recent years, it’s increasingly become a site for large, and in some cases, year-round homes.

The homes along the lake all use septic systems to dispose of human waste. They discharge treated effluent to within just a few feet of the lake. In Part Two of the investigative series, “How’s The Water?” a growing number of experts question the wisdom of having these septic systems so close to the city’s drinking water supply. WGLT’s Judy Valente has the story.

Native Americans Protest Pipeline

Apr 15, 2016
Enbridge LLC

The Standing Rock Sioux has set up a camp in North Dakota to protest a planned pipeline to carry crude from the Bakken oil fields to Illinois. The ``spirit camp'' at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers has been occupied for two weeks. The tribe opposes the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline planned by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners because it fears a spill could contaminate its drinking water. The company maintains the pipeline will be a safe and cost-effective way to transport oil, and will create jobs and boost the economy.

Chilly Temps Put Chill On Planting

Apr 14, 2016
Daniel Schwen / Flickr via Creative Commons

Cooler temperatures sometimes dipping below freezing have prohibited Illinois agricultural producers from planting until they find warmer soil.

Gay Fuhrmeister

Chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin's deer population is growing geographically and in prevalence. The Department of Natural Resources says more than 9 percent of white-tailed deer tested last year were positive for CWD.

Peabody Files For Bankruptcy

Apr 13, 2016
Peabody Energy

Peabody Energy, the nation's largest coal miner, filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday as a crosscurrent of environmental, technological and economic changes wreak havoc across the industry.

Ralph Weisheit

Solar electric power generation, an energy option which could reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change, is facing some serious hurdles in Illinois.

During a Sound Ideas climate change panel discussion at the Illinois Sustainable Living and Wellness Expo, the five guests agreed that Illinois has more than enough sunshine to produce ample solar power, that solar power would create jobs, and lower utility prices.

Decatur Zoo Welcomes Pair of Cheetahs

Apr 11, 2016
Karamash / flicker via Creative Commons

  The Scovill Zoo in Decatur is celebrating the arrival of two cheetah brothers. It's the first time the central Illinois zoo has had new cheetahs in 13 years. 

Don DeBold / Flickr via Creative Commons

Illinois senators Thursday passed legislation out of committee to ban trapping bobcats and selling their pelts.

Connect Transit Updates Payment Options

Apr 7, 2016

Beginning in June, Connect Transit riders will use new electronic fare boxes when boarding a bus.

Customers will be able to pay for rides with a magnetic strip card. Riders can also continue to use Connect Transit issued passes or cash. Bus tokens will be phased out beginning in May and no longer accepted after June 3rd.

Monthly 'Fast Passes' already purchased will work until June and any remaining credit can be transferred to a new mag-strip card after June.

Connect Transit Tweaks Route Plan

Apr 6, 2016
Jim Browne / WGLT

Connect Transit is continuing to make adjustments to its proposed bus route plan. The new change in the plan will keep a stop in front of Phoenix Towers.

The green bus will no longer stop near Chestnut and Center streets, so the vehicle no longer has to get across two lanes of traffic in a single block.

The blue route will be extended down Chestnut to Locust, and will also stop at Phoenix Towers. That was a stop that was formerly made by the purple bus.

Connect Transit indicates more shifts in the proposed route overhaul are probably coming.

Possible Keystone Oil Line Leak

Apr 5, 2016
Shannonpatrick17 / Flickr via Creative Commons

TransCanada Corp. says the Keystone pipeline, which carries crude into Illinois, will likely remain shut down for the rest of the week while officials investigate an apparent oil spill in southeastern South Dakota.

Cover Crops Coming Back

Mar 29, 2016
Leslaw Zimny / Flickr via Creative Commons

Cover crops are regaining popularity in central Illinois as a way to preserve nutrients in soil and purity in water runoff.

Jaap de Roode / Facebook via Creative Commons

A Senate Democrat is proposing a special Illinois license plate to help preserve the monarch butterfly. The plan by state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake is to allow motorists to pay a surcharge for stickers to indicate their support for the insect's viability. The monarch population in Illinois has decreased 90 percent in the past two decades because of changes in habitat. Bush says monarchs need milkweed plants to lay eggs and feed. Interstate highway medians could be developed with the plant so the butterfly could visit the milkweeds with little outside distraction.

Storms Threaten

Mar 16, 2016
CJohnson7 / Flickr via Creative Commons

Winds ripped the roof off a home in Springfield and a possible tornado was reported in Kankakee County as a severe storm moved through Illinois.

Attorney Explains Bicycle Laws, Insurance

Mar 15, 2016
Arturo Satilla / Flickr via Creative Commons

A bicycle lawyer is addressing the Bike BloNo meeting March 16th. Brendan Kevenides is partner in a Chicago firm that specializes in the legal needs of cyclists.

Another Mild Winter For Central Illinois

Mar 7, 2016
noaa via FaceBook

Wet, and not as cold. That sums up this year's winter, according to a state climatologist. With a look back at the winter season, and a peak ahead at what spring may hold, GLT's Jim Browne talks with Jim Angel about our weather, and long term trends.

Jim Angel says the fact winter temperatures rose to their highest average readings is a trend that also is reflected in the other three seasons. This past winter was about 7 degrees warmer than average.

Galesburg Invests in Hybrid Buses

Feb 18, 2016
John Eisenschenk / Facebook via Creative Commons

Galesburg has agreed to purchase two hybrid mass-transit buses, but they won't hit the streets for a few years. The city council has approved using $1.2 million in state Transportation Department funding to buy the diesel-electric machines. City Manager Todd Thompson says the city's purchase is part of a joint order of nearly 200 vehicles so it could be up to two years before they're delivered to the city. The city entered a joint procurement in February 2015 with Interurban Transit Partnership of Grand Rapids, Michigan, for 186 buses to be built from 2015 to 2020.

MichaelINBA / Flickr via Creative Commons

A Midwest environmental group has followed through on its promise to formally challenge Peabody Energy's ability to guarantee it has enough money for future cleanup of its Illinois and Indiana coal mines. The Environmental Law and Policy Center asking regulators to stop allowing the St. Louis-based company to use the process known as self-bonding instead of posting conventional bonds for mine remediation.

thomassplettoessa / NOAA

U-S Senator Dick Durbin says Illinois should start working to achieve energy efficiency and use green technology to combat climate change. The Supreme Court last week blocked a federal plan to limit greenhouse gases emitted by power plants. Durbin says it's time for Illinois to be proactive about saving the planet. "It's really going to help us in the future and for our kids, it's going to leave them a world they can live in." Nearly 30 states have filed a lawsuit challenging the President’s Clean Power Plan; Illinois is not one of them.

Midwest To Be Used As Model For Conservation Efforts

Feb 12, 2016
Michael Hill / WGLT

Illinois, Iowa, and Kentucky will be the proving ground for land and water conservation across the United States. The efforts aim to reduce the amount of chemical runoff to keep the land fertile and increase water quality.

Eagles Soar Over Illinois

Feb 12, 2016
Dave Menke / US Fish and Wildlife Service

It's the annual, "Eagle Days" at Havana, along with other sites on the Illinois River. ISU professor of Biology Angelo Caparella says Bald Eagles reuse their nests, unless a competing bird takes it over. While not especially social, Bald Eagles are like in-laws, they tolerate each other as long as there's plenty to eat. But even more thrilling to birders like Caparella, are sightings of the eastern Hudson Bay Golden Eagles.

Judith Valente

McLean County residents who receive their water from Lake Bloomington and Lake Evergreen believe they will likely face a water shortage as well as water quality issues within the next decade. They are split, however, on whether drilling for a new well, tapping into an existing aquifer, or constructing another surface reservoir similar to those two lakes is the solution.


A solution for bulk waste pickup may have been found in Bloomington. The issue has been under deliberation for over two years, but the council will vote on a plan that would provide free drop-off at a city facility, but charge $20 for the first bucket at the curb, and $40 for additional buckets on the same day as the first.

During a work session last month, Alderwoman Joni Painter said she is skeptical of the proposal. 

"Whatever we do, I want it to work, and I don't think this will," she said. "It'll start neighbor wars. People will dump places where they shouldn't."

Peabody Energy

A Midwest environmental group is questioning the ability of the country's largest coal producer to guarantee it has enough money for future cleanup of its Illinois mines. State regulators allow St. Louis-based Peabody Energy to pledge it has adequate assets to pay for the estimated $92 million needed to reclaim three southern Illinois mines once there's no coal left to extract. The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center says that arrangement puts Illinois taxpayers at risk should Peabody go bankrupt. Five other major coal companies have sought bankruptcy protection since 2014.

Illinois Experiences Average January

Feb 3, 2016
Gibonb / Facebook via Creative Commons

The wild temperature swings felt in Illinois this January canceled each other out, averaging to 26.7 degrees, just a fraction of a degree above average. Climatologist Jim Angel calls the temperature swings impressive, but also typical of winter in Illinois. He says the first nine days of January were above average, followed by four days below average, then three days above average. The second half of the month started much below average, but steadily warmed. The temperature was 20 degrees above average by the end of the month. January snowfall ranged from 2 to 5 inches in most places.

Some Connect Transit Routes Change Today

Feb 1, 2016
Ralph Weisheit / WGLT

Beginning today (Mon, Feb. 1) updated routes for some Connect Transit buses will take effect.

The Bloomington-Normal bus service says the Red B and Yellow G Routes will stay on Euclid Avenue, no longer turning on Illinois/Olive in order to stop on Erickson.  This change is being made to accommodate 40 foot buses, and also to avoid an area that is frequently detoured due to winter road conditions.

Connect Transit

Bloomington-Normal’s bus system is making it  easier for customers and drivers to handle fares. Connect Transit is installing 53 automatic fare boxes, one on every fixed route and Connect Mobility bus.  Public Outreach Coordinator Gabe Goldsmith says the electronic fare collection system includes mobile ticketing via smart phones and cards with magnetic strips, similar to those issued by parking decks.  

Staff / WGLT

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner is commending 4th Ward Alderman Amelia Buragas for looking out for her constituents. She tabled an ordinance on December 21st prohibiting water well drilling because of a pollution plume near the corner of Linden and Emerson in order to learn more about the situation. The ordinance was approved last night. In this Sound Ideas interview excerpt, Tari Renner tells WGLT's Mike McCurdy the likelihood of further pollution is low.

Illinois American Seeking Water Rate Hike

Jan 22, 2016
Scott Robinson / Flickr via Creative Commons

Illinois American Water has filed a request for an 18 percent statewide rate increase for all of the water and sewer company's operating districts in Illinois. The request would increase the average company customer's base water and sewer service rate by $7.57 per month. The proposed increase is pending approval by the Illinois Commerce Commission. Company spokeswoman Karen Cotton says the commission's decision won't come until the end of this year. The company says the requested rate increase is driven by investments in infrastructure improvements statewide.

Deer Harvest Exceeds 150,000

Jan 20, 2016

More than 155,000 deer were harvested by Illinois hunters during the 2015-2016 deer hunting seasons. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says about 155,130 deer were harvested this year, compared to 145,720 deer last year. Hunters took about 56,730 deer during the archery season from Oct. 1 to Jan. 17. Young hunters harvested about 2,840 deer during the youth season from Oct. 10 to 12. Nearly 86,900 deer were taken during the traditional firearm season from Nov. 20 to 22 and Dec. 3 to 6. Hunters harvested 2,375 deer during the muzzleloader-only season from Dec. 11 to 13.