Nationwide rain garden app now includes Indiana plants

August 20th, 2018 by

A smartphone app named “Rain Garden,” designed to help people plan and build rain gardens across America, is now customized with a specialized list of plants suited for Indiana. Through video tutorials, diagrams and tools, the app makes it easy to learn the basics of designing, installing and maintaining a rain garden.

Many people and communities use sustainable landscape design and management practices, such as rain gardens, to prevent polluted stormwater runoff from flowing into nearby rivers and streams and harming the water supply. To stop runoff from reaching water bodies, stormwater can be directed toward rain gardens to be absorbed by plants and soils.

Rain Garden app screenshot

Hoosiers can download “Rain Garden” for free through the Apple or Google app store. Created at the University of Connecticut, the app includes tools for determining soil type, measuring the area needed for the garden, and managing multiple rain garden projects.

The Indiana plant list was made possible by Kara Salazar of Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the Purdue Rainscaping Education Program, Rosie Lerner of Purdue Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, John Orick of the Purdue Master Gardener program, Kris Medic of the Purdue Extension Community Development program, Jane Frankenberger of Purdue Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Laura Esman of Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources.

Case Study: Algonquin, Ill. saves money while it conserves water

March 3rd, 2016 by

Municipalities throughout Illinois have been making determined efforts to conserve water though policy changes, education, outreach, and water-loss reduction strategies. The Illinois Section of the American Water Works Association (ISAWWA) Water Efficiency Committee and IISG assembled seven case studies from the ISAWWA Water Saver award applications to highlight water efficiency achievements.

Algonquin is the third story in our series.

Rapid population growth is forcing Algonquin, Illinois, a city of about 30,000 located 40 miles northwest of Chicago, to reevaluate its water use strategy.

The village developed its initial water conservation program in 2003 at a time when the system was significantly strained. It included outside watering restrictions, public outreach, operations improvements, and a seasonal water rate structure. The program was a success, resulting in a water use reduction of roughly 30 gallons per person/day.

Because ongoing population growth in the village is expected to put upward pressure on water demand, Algonquin’s next step was to update the Comprehensive Water System Master Plan to evaluate the potential of further water conservation efforts to meet long-term water demands. The goals were to evaluate overall water system performance, evaluate current patterns of water use, predict future patterns of water use, and determine the infrastructure necessary to use less water resources.

While stewardship and sustainability are the main drivers of water conservation in Algonquin, village leaders also wanted to understand how an effective water conservation program can result in a reduction in capital expenditures through the timing of capital investments.

The Village of Algonquin Comprehensive Water System Master Plan was completed in 2012 by Engineering Enterprises, Inc. As the plan moves forward, the savings will be significant.

When comparing current water use trends and potential less resource intensive scenarios, the planners found a nearly $6,360,000 capital cost difference and showed that water conservation policy can have a huge impact.

“The Master Plan has been a great resource to refer back to,” said Andy Warmus, Algonquin utilities superintendent.

“I use the document in some fashion every day.  Can’t imagine not having the information at our fingertips.”

Purdue pharmacy now accepts unwanted medicine

September 16th, 2015 by

Last week, the Purdue University Retail Pharmacy became the latest participant in IISG’s multi-state effort to help communities properly dispose of their expired, unused, and unwanted pharmaceuticals.


This is the first pharmacy-based collection program that IISG has helped to start. Collaborators also include the Yellow Jug Old Drugs medicine take-back program, and Purdue College of Pharmacy.


Laura Kammin, IISG pollution prevention program specialist, worked closely with Patricia Darbishire, a Purdue clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice, to get the ball rolling.


“The reason I wanted to work with Patricia is that I know we will get really good feedback on how the program works from the pharmacy’s perspective,” Kammin said. “And because they will be conducting surveys, we’ll have solid data that can help improve collection programs in other communities in Illinois and Indiana.”


The Yellow Jug Old Drugs program was started in 2008 by the Great Lakes Clean Water Organization working with pharmacies to collect and properly dispose of non-controlled substances to help reduce their impact on the Great Lakes.
In September of 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) changed the rules to allow pharmacies to take controlled substances. Individuals with unwanted medications can visit a participating pharmacy and dispose of both types of drugs in the yellow container that contains a substance that renders the pharmaceuticals non-retrievable.
To date, The Yellow Jug Old Drug Program has properly disposed of more than 52 tons of prescription waste—which means a reduction of pharmaceuticals getting into waterways.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who is the co-chair and founder of the state’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, was also in attendance.
“Nearly 80 percent of heroin users say they started out abusing prescription drugs, and prescription drugs are causing half of the drug overdose deaths in our state,” Zoeller said. “Purdue’s participation in Yellow Jug Old Drugs will not only provide more disposal options to the community, it will instill in young people the risks of prescription drug abuse and hopefully save lives.”
Kammin was excited about the enthusiasm among the partners. “We all agree that we want to get drugs out of the community safely and to reduce the environmental impacts of improper disposal,” Kammin said.
For more information about how to start a medicine take-back program in your community, check out more resources available at
Purdue University Retail Pharmacy accepts both prescription and over-the-counter medications, including pills, ointments, liquids, and creams, Monday though Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 
The pharmacy is located at the Robert Heine Pharmacy Building, 575 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, Ind.

This day in history: Drinking water standards go national

December 16th, 2014 by
Grab a glass, turn on the faucet, and take a drink. It’s a simple thing we do every day without much thought. But it wasn’t that long ago that at least parts of the country had reason to pause before reaching for tap water. As recently as the 1970s, in fact, concerns over drinking water quality were high and news was abuzz with reports of contaminants that posed risks to public health.
The tides began to turn on Dec. 16, 1974 when President Gerald Ford signed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) into law. One in a string of environmental legislation, the act set the stage for the first national health-based standards for drinking water. 
The standards—set by U.S. EPA and enforced primarily by the states—set maximum levels for roughly 90 contaminants ranging from pesticides to human waste to naturally-occurring chemicals that can endanger public health. The more than 150,000 public water systems regulated under SDWA are required to test for contaminants and make changes when standards aren’t met.
Over the years, Congress has expanded SDWA several times. The original act focused primarily on treatment processes and technologies. Today, states are also required to assess the quality of rivers, lakes, and groundwater used for drinking water and determine their vulnerability to contamination. Grant and loan programs were also established in 1996 to help providers, particularly small water systems, protect source water, improve treatment processes, and train system operators and managers.   
The 1996 amendments also make it easier for you to learn where your water comes from, how it is treated, and what you can do to protect drinking water supplies. Community water systems are required to provide this information in annual consumer confidence reports. You can also get answers to specific questions by calling the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline.
Despite these improvements, ensuring Americans have access to safe drinking water is not without its challenges. Check back here later this week for more information on some of the major obstacles faced by water providers and communities.  

Illinois launches Clean Marina Program

May 1st, 2013 by

Today marks the first official day of the Illinois Clean Marina Program, a voluntary plan that gives marina and boatyard personnel the tools they need to keep pollution out of rivers and lakes. And Chicago’s newest and largest marina has already pledged to become the first clean marina in the state. 

To earn clean marina status, 31st Street Harbor will implement a series of best management practices that make marina operations more efficient and environmentally friendly. The practices cover a broad range of topics from marina construction to sewage handling, and the majority of them are easy and affordable. Some of the activities in the program include conducting vessel maintenance without washing debris into water, scheduling construction to ensure that nearby habitats are protected, and other steps that help reduce environmental impacts. 
Marina managers that pledge to join the program will receive training from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to help implement the program’s best management practices. In addition, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, IDNR, and the Chicago Park District are developing a Clean Marina Guidebook with how-to guidance for all program requirements. The guidebook will give important information on laws and permit programs related to marina activities, direct marina personnel to additional resources, and include clean boating tip sheets that can be distributed to boaters. The Illinois Clean Marina Guidebook will be available soon on the program website
Officials at the Park District expect 31st Street Harbor to complete the certification process later this month. Five additional marinas in the Chicago area are expected to join their ranks within the year. Marina managers interested in pledging to be a clean marina can contact IDNR’s Kim Kreiling at 312-814-6260 or to begin the certification process.

IISG heads to the outdoor shows to kick off 2013

January 11th, 2013 by
Sarah Zack and Danielle Hilbrich, members of IISG’s aquatic invasive species outreach team, set up a booth and talked with hundreds of visitors at the Let’s Go Fishing Show in Collinsville, IL January 4-6. They attended the show in order to provide more information to fishermen and boaters about the dangers of aquatic invasive species, and introduce them to some simple practices that can help reduce the spread of invasives.
Many visitors to the IISG booth had experienced Asian carp jumping at their boats while on the water, and were very interested in ways they could protect themselves while fishing and boating in infested waters. In addition, Danielle and Sarah encouraged anyone that catches an Asian carp – accidently or on purpose – to cook it up and eat it. Asian carp have mild-tasting, white, flaky flesh that takes seasoning and marinades very well. Asian carp are a healthy choice too, since they’re low in contaminants and high in omega-3 fatty acids. Many attendees said they were willing to try cooking Asian carp, so Danielle and Sarah shared recipes with them as well as copies of Louisiana Sea Grant’s video on how to fillet Asian carp.
The booth was highly visited throughout the weekend, and Danielle and Sarah had the chance to hand out hundreds of Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!™ stickers and brochures while offering people more information about invasive species. The booth was even featured on a 92.3 WIL, a popular St. Louis country radio station, and radio host Bo Matthews briefly talked with Sarah Zack about AIS prevention steps that people can take to stop the spread of AIS – inspecting for and removing aquatic plants and animals from equipment, draining all water, disposing of live bait in the trash, and drying recreational equipment before visiting another waterbody. Bo Matthews strongly supports IISG’s AIS-prevention message, and even put a Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! sticker on the radio station truck to help spread the word.
The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant AIS outreach team is part of the Illinois Natural History Survey Lake Michigan Biological Station, and is housed at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL.

In the news: Algae and invasives threatening Erie and other Great Lakes

November 26th, 2012 by
Lake Erie is under attack, but from threats that we may be able to fix. 
“The major threats to all the lakes include invasive species that throw a delicate ecosystem out of balance. In Erie, more so than the other lakes, toxic algae threaten the health of visitors and create “dead zones” where no aquatic species can survive.
At least 136 invasive species — plants, fish and mussels — have forever changed the lakes. But it’s the potential 137th invader that officials fear the most. The Asian carp wants nothing more than to spread through the Great Lakes and continue its feeding frenzy. Though a live fish has yet to be found, DNA tests suggest that they might already have infiltrated Lake Erie.”
Follow the link above to read the complete article, which includes interesting information about dead zones, toxic algae, and other growing threats to the delicate ecosystems of the Great Lakes.

In the news: Great Lakes lawmakers consider a ban on harmful pavement sealant

November 14th, 2012 by
Coal-tar sealant, a commonly used application in parking lot and other pavements, is known to be harmful to humans, and threatens to enter watersheds and Great Lakes waterways as well. That is why lawmakers in three Great Lakes states are considering or proposing a ban on the substance in order to protect those waters. 
“Negative effects on fish and other aquatic animals include inhibited reproduction, fin erosion, liver abnormalities, cataracts and death, according to Geological Survey reports.
Coal-tar sealcoat makes up about half of the PAHs in lake sediment, according to Environmental Science and Technology. It is why PAH levels have increased in the sediment of urban and suburban lakes since 2000 even when other major PAH producers, like power plants, have been decreasing emissions.”
Read the complete story at the link above.

In the news: Identifying potential causes of harmful algae in Lake Erie

September 10th, 2012 by
A two-part article on WKSU’s website delves into recent research attempting to understand the causes of harmful and often very large algal blooms in Lake Erie. The potential negative impacts these blooms can have include depleting nutrients from the waterway, endangering fish and wildlife health, and causing economic concerns by prohibiting or discouraging recreation, tourism, and other industries. 
Part one of the article delves into one major contributor identified by the research: agriculture. 
“Financial viability is the bottom line for most farmers here along the Maumee River. The Maumee passes through 4.5-million acres of farmland before entering Lake Erie at Toledo. Along the way it picks up a lot of topsoil from farm fields. Attached to that soil are fine particles of phosphorus, one of the nutrients that helps crops grow, but also feeds algae blooms. No-till farming has reduced particulate phosphorus runoff by nearly 40-percent. But researchers from Heidelberg University say their thirty years of water quality data shows that another form of phosphorus – called dissolved phosphorus – has risen dramatically in recent years. And to reduce that nutrient enough to curb Lake Erie algae blooms will take a whole new set of techniques.” 
The second article describes another common source of phosphorous and other problem substances – stormwater and sewage. 
“The sport fishing industry, beach resorts, amusement parks – all took a hit from the 2011 algae outbreak. Connor says cities …not just farms…have to do more to stay on top of it.
Overflows from sewage systems that collect storm water and waste water are a fairly regular occurrence in Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit and other communities around the lake. And it’s a huge cost to fix it.”
There is a lot of interesting information in both articles, and the occurrence of and concern over these algal blooms isn’t limited to Lake Erie. All of the Great Lakes and other nearby waterways can be susceptible, so the results of studies such as these are important in helping communities prevent the same types of problems in their areas. Our friends at Michigan Sea Grant have produced a brochure for beach managers that outlines more information about algal blooms, and IISG has produced a card for homeowners that explains how to properly care for your lawn without contributing to the phosphorous problem.
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