MPC research assistant Emily Miller contributed to this post, which was originally published as part of MPC and Openlands' What Our Water's Worth campaign. Go to www.chicagolandh2o.org for more timely stories and to sign up for our monthly newsletter.
On August 24, 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed three bills to protect Illinois’ water.
“Pure and plentiful drinking water is every Illinois citizen’s right,” Governor Quinn said. “These bills will help Illinois conserve water, protect the safety of our drinking water supplies and ensure that unused medications are disposed of properly.” House Bill 248, sponsored by Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) and Sen. Susan Garret (D-Lake Forest) and effective immediately, allows the North Shore Sanitary District to supply treated effluent to such large-scale, non-consumption irrigation projects as parks and golf courses. Instead of those large irrigators using drinking-quality water straight from Lake Michigan or groundwater, they will now be able to use recycled wastewater. Not only does that reduce strain on water supplies, but every gallon of wastewater that is recycled, reused, and ultimately soaks into the ground, is a gallon of effluent that is not discharged into one of our waterways.
The other two bills focus on growing problem in the region: unregulated chemicals from our wastewater finding their way into the water supply. House Bill 2056, sponsored by Rep. Joann Osmond (R-Antioch) and Sen. Suzi Schmidt (R-Lake Villa), creates a pharmaceutical collection and disposal program to ensure safe disposal of excess prescription medication. This collaborative program between communities, local pharmacies, police departments, hospitals, and students, will educate the public about malpractice of pharmaceutical disposal and the impact of this on the environment. In addition, a $20 fee will be added to most drug convictions for deposit into the newly created Household Pharmaceutical Disposal Fund, from which the State Police will be able to make grants to local agencies that develop drug collection programs.
House Bill 3090, sponsored by Rep. Luis Arroyo, (D-Chicago) and Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), allows a city, village, or municipality to authorize the use of its city hall or police department to display containers suitable for use as a receptacles for used, expired or unwanted pharmaceuticals. Moreover, any and every facility that dispenses prescription drugs will now be required to offer collection services.
As unregulated chemicals from wastewater find their way into the water supply, the ability to detect and understand the effects of these contaminants has evolved faster than the ability to remove them. Pharmaceuticals, plastics, and other known contaminants harm people and aquatic wildlife, although to what extent is unclear.
These bills were passed at exactly the right time. On Thursday, Sept. 15th, the Metropolitan Planning Council and Openlands are hosting a lunchtime roundtable discussion, Emerging Contaminants, Emerging Solutions: Proactive Water Quality Management in the Face of New Threats, to look at what is actually in the water, how the contaminants are linked to health problems, and ways to reduce or eliminate these threats.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Dana Kolpin will explore how contaminants detected in our region’s surface and groundwater have affected fish and other wildlife. Carole Braverman, a toxicologist, from the U.S. EPA, will examine whether these chemicals pose significant health risks to people. Laura Kammin from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant will discuss innovative programs to reduce this contamination, such as drug take-back facilities. Debra Ness, of the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, will discuss the real-world successes and challenges of proactive and preventative water quality management. Register now!