Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rotenone application at T.J. O'Brien Lock and Dam

As the title of this blog entry suggests, the fist toxicant, rotenone, is going to be administered in a 2 mile stretch of the Little Calumet River downstream of the T.J. O'Brien Lock and Dam.  For those of you unfamiliar with the region:

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(Hopefully, my Geography friends will find this map a little more acceptable than my last one.  If not, a better map can be found here.)

Purpose of the rotenone treatment

The purpose of this piscicide treatment, which is being conducted by the IL Department of Natural Resources, is to determine if Asian Carp are in the waterway.  I am told that the locks will close on Thursday the 20th, at which point the canal will be cleared, nets will be put in the water, water samples will be collected and chemical barriers will be put in place to protect boats, marinas and other properties.  Rotenone treatment will begin on the afternoon of the 20th, and IDNR will collect dead fish and conduct monitoring from the 21st through the 25th or 26th.  Dead fish collected during the process will be sent to landfills.

What the public should be aware of

It is important that between May 20-27, 2010 the public should:
  • NOT Swim or recreate in the Little Calumet River
  • NOT Fish in the Little Calumet River
  • NOT Eat fish found in the Little Calumet River
The rotenone application process will not affect drinking water.

Press conference

The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee will be holding a press conference at 10 AM on Thursday, May 20 at Sunset Bay Marina, and more information can be found at the website: www.asiancarp.org.

What about Rotenone?

I did a little digging about the chemical and came up with an opinion piece from the research journal Bioscience which advocates for the use of Rotenone in fish and marine research.  The article is accessible to the non-expert, and here are a few points of interest I pulled from my read through:

  • The World Health Organization classifies rotenone as moderately hazardous (level 3 on a scale of 1 [most toxic] to 4 [least toxic]).  It has a low toxicity for birds and is moderately toxic to rats.  
  • Rotenone kills fish by blocking a cell's ability to take in oxygen, and the chemical is easily taken up through the gills.  The chemical is not readily absorbed by human skin or the gastrointestinal tract, which is the primary reason why it is less toxic to humans.
  • Rotenone breaks down when exposed to sunlight and plenty of oxygen.  
  • The chemical is used in a variety of fisheries management practices, typically to eliminate undesirable species prior to seeding an area with target species.
  • Application as a piscicide is the only legal use of rotenone in the US.

What next?

We at the Task Force are paying close attention to the Asian Carp issue and are talking to a lot of people. As we learn more about the impact this invasive species (and subsequent management operations) has on the environment, recreation and residents, we'll pass the information along to you.  If you have some information to share, please contact the SETF office.

Thanks to Nicole Kamins at Chicago Dept. of Environment and Greg Morris of the USCG Marine Safety Unit Chicago for providing me with information for this blog entry.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Green things at the Task Force

First, thanks to all who came out to the Green Olive on Friday night.  We had a great turnout and V. P. Bryant served up enough drinks to surpass our goal for the evening by almost 50%!  Thanks to member and Geographer par excellence Mark Bouman who pointed out that we could have pulled in a few more environmental socialites if the map in my previous blog entry pointed to the correct address for the green olive.  Who reads maps anyway? :-(

Second, I'd like to announce a partnership between SETF, Chicago DOE and Green Corp - Calumet (GC-C).  GC-C is a job training and community service program which will specialize in ecological restoration projects in the Calumet area.  Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the USDA Forest Service will allow GC-C to set up its home base in the SETF office starting this month and provide programming through November 2011. 

GC-C will be led by Zach Taylor, Program Manager for WRD Environmental.  He will facilitate the restoration projects in the area and direct crew member training on restoration techniques, chainsoaw operation and safety, herbicide application, seed collection, plant identification, regional ecology, and prescription burn trianing.  Zach most recently worked as a Field Ecologist for V3 Companies and has conducted restoration work in Chicago, Nevada and Maine.  He holds a B.A. from Winona State University in Minnesota. 

Finally, there's green as in money.  Our membership drive will be wrapping up shortly, and we still have a long way to go to reach our goal (and feed a few more birds).  If you haven't become a member or made a donation, it's not too late.  Please support the Task Force by becoming a member and letting your neighbors and colleagues know about our programming and activities.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tire burning still dirty

Surprisingly, the Illinois house voted overwhelmingly to support polluting the air we breathe with toxic chemicals from burning tires and give Geneva Energy, the plant in Ford Heights wanting to burn tires, green credits for doing so!  We at SETF are thankful to those members of the state senate who are opposed to increasing the likelihood of asthma and other respiratory illnesses in their consituency, for on Thursday they shot down senate bill 380, keeping the air we breathe from getting more poisonous.

It seems curious, however, that many representatives thought the potential economic benefits (Sen. James Meeks thinks Geneva energy might leave the area should they not get incentives to stay in Ford Heights) outweighed the environmental risks (the Illinois EPA has cited Geneva Energy for pollution violations 4 times since 2006).  Was your representative one of them?  You can check the house vote here and the senate vote here.  (And if you don't know who your representatives are, check this link.)  You might want to send your representative an email, asking him/her why they thought SB380 was a good idea.  Feel free to ask if they think there is any merit to Illinois EPA's investigation into whether or not the incinerator, built in a small village with a 95% minority population, vioates any environmental justice laws.

There is no doubt that we need economic revitalization in our region.  To do so at the expense of the health and well-being of residents is unsustainable and unethical.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tip-sy Friday Fundraiser

This Friday (May 7th) we'll be hosting a drink night at the Green Olive (13501 Ave N. - check the map below for directions) from 5-9. We serve the drinks, you leave the tip, and we use the extra cash to keep up our programming and make better use of our office space for environmental activities in the area. If it's been a rough week and you need to relax for a bit, stop on by, say hi and relax with a bunch of Calumet lovers.

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