A new environmental sensing buoy will be placed north of Chicago this summer, making it easier than ever for Illinois boaters and beach-goers to spend a fun, safe day on the water.
Like its counterpart in Michigan City, IN, the nearshore buoy will relay information on wave height and direction, wind speed, and air and surface water temperatures in near real time. A webcam will also make it possible to watch changing lake conditions first-hand.
This is the newest in a string of nearshore buoys along the Lake Michigan shoreline. In addition to allowing people track waves and temperatures, the data they collect will help officials warn beachgoers when contamination levels may make swimming unsafe. Researchers also rely on the real-time information to manage fisheries, monitor lake currents, and improve hazardous weather predictions.
The Illinois buoy, jointly operated by IISG and LimnoTech, is expected to go online in May. The project is funded by the Great Lakes Observing System through a grant from NOAA Coastal Storms.
Indiana communities along Lake Michigan are celebrating this year’s SepticSmart Week, Sept. 22-26, by reminding homeowners of the importance of septic system maintenance to environmental and public health.
An estimated 60,000 households in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties depend on septic systems to treat wastewater. Without regular maintenance, these systems can backup or overflow, contaminating nearby lakes, rivers, and groundwater supplies with everything from excess nutrients to E. coli to pharmaceutical chemicals. Septic system failures are also one of the primary causes of beach closures in Indiana.
To prevent failures, U.S. EPA and the Northwest Indiana Septic System Coordination Work Group has some advice for homeowners:
Protect it and inspect it: Have your system inspected every three years by a licensed contractor and have your tank pumped when necessary, typically every 3-5 years. Many septic system failures occur during the holiday season, so be sure to get your system inspected and serviced now before inspectors’ schedules fill up around the holidays.
Think at the sink: Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the drain. These substances can clog pipes and the drain field.
Don’t overload the commode: Only put things in the drain or toilet that belong there. Coffee grounds, dental floss, diapers and wipes, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, and cat litter can clog and damage septic systems.
Don’t strain your drain: Be water efficient and spread out water use. Fix plumbing leaks and install faucet aerators and water-efficient products. Spread out laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently.
Shield your field: Remind guests not to park or drive on the drain field, which could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.
The Northwest Indiana Septic System Coordination Work Group brings together federal, state, and local governments and agencies, state and county health departments, and not-for-profits to provide homeowners with information and assistance on the proper care of septic systems. IISG’s Leslie Dorworth has been a part of the group since it began in 2012. For more information or to get involved locally, contact Dorreen Carey at the Indiana DNR Lake Michigan Coastal Program at 219-921-0863 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SepticSmart Week is part of U.S. EPA’s year-round SepticSmart program. In addition to educating property owners, the program is an online resource for industry practitioners, local governments and community organizations that provides access to tools to educate clients and residents.
Steve Mauro’s research into the impacts of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) on bacterial communities may have started as a small side project, but it has become so much more. The Gannon University dean gained national attention in 2011 when he and his research team discovered that small concentrations of fluoxetine are killing E. coli in the nearshore waters of Lake Erie. Today, Mauro continues to investigate exactly where and how fluoxetine and other pharmaceutical chemicals, both individually and combined, are changing the microbes that keep aquatic ecosystems healthy. And it is this work that brought IISG to his office bright and early on a June morning.
In this issue of UpClose, Mauro goes beyond his work on PPCPs to talk about the importance public outreach and about new efforts that are making it easier for forecasters and beach managers to predict when E. coli levels may make a trip to the beach more trouble than its worth.