Stormwater management gets a major boost in Blue Island

December 1st, 2014 by

October brought good news for the residents of Blue Island, IL when the state announced a $1.1 million investment to expand and improve the city’s stormwater management efforts. The bulk of the grant money will go to green infrastructure projects along one of the city’s major roadways, which will reduce flooding, improve local water quality, and beautify the community. Remaining dollars will be used to restore an 11-acre wetland in a northeast detention pond. 


The new projects are the latest in a series of local, state, and non-profit programs tackling stormwater runoff in this suburban community. In 2012, IISG teamed up with the Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Illinois EPA, and many others to  combat local flooding with native plants, rain gardens, and rain barrels. That year, the Blue Island, Blue Water initiative helped distribute 125 rain barrels to residents and institutions in one of the city’s flood-prone neighborhoods. And roughly 1,000 native plants and trees were planted over the course of the project. 

Sea Grant educators and specialists also conducted numerous teacher and homeowner workshops to strengthen community awareness of green infrastructure practices and other strategies for managing and reducing stormwater runoff. 

It’s early success led the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to name Blue Island, Blue Water a Millennium Reserve model project in 2012. Lessons learned during the project have also helped inform the new Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, charged with coordinating the region’s stormwater and green infrastructure efforts to maximize the impact of individual city and agency projects. 

The collaborative is led by the Metropolitan Agency for Planning and brings together numerous groups interested in stormwater issues, including the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, and IISG. 

IISG’s Caitie McCoy presents Great Lakes progress at international conference

February 18th, 2013 by

IISG’s Caitie McCoy attended the Seventh International Conference on Remediation of Contaminated Sediments last week to present her community outreach work with the Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA). The conference traditionally features environmental scientists and engineers, but that is changing. “We are starting to see more attention paid to community engagement at these types of conferences,” Caitie tells us. “Technical project managers realize that projects are easier to implement when the community understands and supports the work, and so they’re eager to learn from professionals who specialize in community engagement and stakeholder involvement.” 

Caitie presented a poster on her educational program in northwest Indiana, which taught students about the GLLA sediment cleanup at Roxana Marsh on the Grand Calumet River. Instead of presenting a typical scientific poster full of text and graphs, Caitie displayed a mural that her fourth grade students made to represent the Roxana Marsh ecosystem.

“Some of my colleagues were a bit skeptical about me presenting a fourth grade mural to a bunch of technical folks, but I’m not afraid to shake things up,” Caitie said. “I wanted to use something eye-catching that would draw people’s attention toward my poster.” And it worked. Caitie was visited non-stop during the session and talked to more than 100 conference attendees about her program. When asked if she thought her poster made an impact, Caitie replied, “I would never have dreamed that someday engineers would be asking me how to replicate my educational program at their sites, so I take that as a big success.” 

Caitie will expand her programming throughout the Grand Calumet River community in 2013, as the Legacy program begins another phase of dredging this summer.

IISG and the Windy City Earth Force team up to empower Chicago students

June 15th, 2012 by

IISG education team members Robin Goettel and Terri Hallesy partnered with Angie Viands of the Field Museum’s Earth Force Program, along with students and teachers within the Calumet community to raise awareness about properly disposing of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).

Windy City Earth Force is part of the museum’s Calumet Environmental Education Program (CEEP). Earth Force is a program that engages 7th and 8th grade students in action projects to address environmental issues in their community.

Students from four schools developed community-based information projects that were showcased at the Earth Force youth summit at Chicago’s Field Museum on May 8, 2012.
Below is a rundown of the final projects that were part of the event: 
Thomas Hoyne Elementary

Ms. Pettis’ 7th grade students’ goal was to find out about potential health concerns for humans and animals caused by PPCPs and to find out what health concerns may lurk within our water supply.

They produced several informational items to help raise awareness about how people contribute to pollution. Those items included:

– Letters to stakeholders, including businesses, legislators, and environmental organizations (including National Resources Defense Council and Illinois Department of Agriculture) about contaminates in the waterways and the importance of water quality standard improvements.

– Fliers to distribute to the public, as well as family and friends about the issue of contaminants and how they can make a difference in their community.

– Posters in local businesses and churches with the message “Stop Pollution in our Water: be green, stop pollution, and save our Earth.” 

– School-wide surveys to determine the pollution tolerance index rating for various aquatic species.

 – E-mail messages to editors at Southtown Star newspaper and requesting them to publish their classroom project.

The final display at the summit included information about how personal care products (PCPs) can be harmful in waterways, as well as additional steps that people can take to help solve this problem. Students displayed sample PCPs that are often found in aquatic ecosystems in the hopes of raising awareness about contaminants in water.
Bennett Elementary
Ms. Millner’s students created a poster display, “Don’t Trash it! Bag It!” They had researched disposal methods for medications, hair care products, and cellphones.
The students educated their fellow classmates about proper disposal methods and passed out literature to hundreds of students to take home to their families. The handouts included information about using either coffee grounds or kitty litter to dispose of the unwanted medicine in the trash, or bringing these pharmaceuticals to a medicine collection site or a community collection event. They also conveyed the message that it’s better to use up hair care products instead of throwing them away. The students cited as a useful website for information about how to properly dispose of personal care products.
Students commented that “this project helped their community because people really need to know how hair care products get into our waterways and can endanger aquatic species,” and “I’m doing a big part in the community. People should wake up to it so that our environment can be more pure.”
Robert A. Black Magnet School
Ms. McNeal’s after-school Science Club students got the word out about proper disposal of PPCPs by writing and performing a rap song that they shared with their community.

In addition, they developed a flier about how to help dispose of medications including the location of the nearest police station collection box.

All of the students did a terrific job of finding out about these issues and coming up with ways to share that information with their community. Congratulations to the students, teachers, and the Earth Force program on making the event such a success.


This “Undo the Chemical Brew” education project is funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Check out the latest information by visiting

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