New Multi-Partner Agreement Provides for Local Hazardous Waste Collection in 2015 and 2017

HHWFor the first time, McLean County residents will be able to plan for local Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection events in 2015 and 2017. Under a recently approved multi-year agreement, the Town of Normal, City of Bloomington, and McLean County will provide the major portion of the funding for HHW collection events in the fall of 2015 and fall 2017. Both will be coordinated by the Ecology Action Center (EAC).

As the designated solid waste agency for the local community, the EAC has traditionally coordinated HHW collection with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) with annual events funded by the state from 2003 through 2007. State funding became less reliable with the economic recession; despite an active application with the IEPA, McLean County did not receive a state sponsored event for six years after 2007.

In 2012, the EAC held a HHW collection for Bloomington-Normal and McLean County residents, funded entirely by local contributions. The EAC’s successful year-long HHW fundraising campaign resulted in $160,000 in public and private contributions including in-kind services; this unique funding strategy has resulted in multiple awards and recognitions for the EAC, both locally and state-wide.

The EAC eventually was granted an IEPA sponsored HHW collection in 2013. The significant turnout at both the 2012 and 2013 collections demonstrated the need for more regular and dependable HHW services to better meet the needs of McLean County residents. The new inter-governmental agreement to provide for 2015 and 2017 HHW events addresses that need. Because of funding limitations, participation in these collections will be limited to McLean County residents. Illinois law mandates that only residential Household Hazardous Waste may be collected; business or industrial waste cannot be accepted.

The EAC plans to continue collecting contributions to the McLean County HHW Fund, a restricted fund, to supplement local government funding for upcoming HHW collections. The costs associated with organizing a HHW collection event vary, and raising private funds is necessary to provide the amount of funding needed for future events. As the EAC is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, contributions to the HHW Fund may be considered tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. Donations may be made online at ecologyactioncenter.org/hhw-fund/. Sponsorships and in-kind contributions by businesses or corporations may provide similar benefits. Contact Michael Brown at 309-454-3169 x.11 for more information.

Household Hazardous Wastes are materials and chemicals that are toxic, flammable, corrosive, reactive, or explosive. They typically cannot be safely recycled or disposed of without a special HHW center or collection event. These wastes can be a serious threat to water supplies and our local environment if they are improperly discarded with nonhazardous trash (put into a municipal solid waste landfill), dumped down the drain, or illegally dumped elsewhere.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment. The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

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Sign up Now for the June 28 Yard Smart Garden Walk

Yard SmartJoin the Ecology Action Center for the twelfth annual Yard Smart Garden Walk on Saturday, June 28, 2014.  This free event features beautiful and functional yards in our community that protect the environment, create a healthy and inviting space for animals and people alike, and use little to no synthetic chemicals in the process.

The morning walk takes place from 9:00am – 12:00p.m with this year’s walk focused on urban landscaping and gardening.  Afterwards, Stacy James from Illinois Prairie Rivers Network will give a presentation titled “Living with Nature:  Conserving Water.”  Lunch is provided.

This year’s event features a plant and Freecycle garden tool exchange.  Please bring plants or garden tools to give away (for free), and maybe you’ll find something you need that someone else donates to the exchange!

The Yard Smart Garden Walk is free and open to the public; however, a $5 donation to offset the cost of lunch is appreciated.  Register by June 26, to receive your details on the event.  You can register online at www.ecologyactioncenter.org or call 309-454-3169.

indigoParticipants should bring their own lawn chairs and reusable water bottles for the lunch and presentation; the lunch is a zero waste event.  Participants are encouraged to carpool during the tour to reduce pollution and conserve energy.  Prior to the event, participants will be emailed pictures pertinent to the tour; it is suggested that participants bring that document on a smartphone or tablet if possible.  Some printed copies may be available.

This garden walk promotes the Ecology Action Center’s Yard Smart program which encourages local gardeners to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, to conserve natural resources such as water and fossil fuels, and to make room for wildlife in their yards. Yard Smart Certification recognizes the efforts of people in the community who use ecologically sustainable practices to maintain their yards, and who realize their lawn, garden, and landscaping decisions impact and affect the health of the entire community.

More information on the Yard Smart program as well as a set of free resource fact sheets to help you become more Yard Smart are available at www.yardsmart.org.

Please join us on June 28th, to see some of the beautiful results of the time and love our neighbors and friends have put into creating healthy, safe, and functional yards and gardens, and find some inspiration for your own yard in the process!

Local Organizations Work to Reduce Student Move-Out Waste: ISUmoveout.org

ISUmoveout.orgThe end of ISU’s semester is here, and that means thousands of students will soon be leaving Normal.  However, they won’t be taking all of their belongings with them.  Each spring, thousands of pounds of perfectly usable household items, clothes, shoes and non-perishable food are discarded in the wake of this exodus.  Most of these items end up in the landfill, where they will remain forever.  What can be done about this waste?

A partnership of the Ecology Action Center, Home Sweet Home Ministries, Recycling Furniture for Families and ISU’s Student and Community Outreach and Sustainability units has formulated a plan and set up a website in an attempt to divert as much as is possible from being discarded.  The website, ISUmoveout.org, allows for students to schedule of pick of accepted items.  In addition, Home Sweet Home Ministries has located clothing and shoe collection bins at three locations:

  • First United Methodist Church, 211 N. School St
  • The Edge Apartments, 800 W. Hovey
  • Class Act, 808 S. Linden

The Ecology Action Center helps the community solve environmental challenges year-round.  While the EAC does not actually accept any materials directly, staff members routinely advise people about how to dispose of everything from electronics to paint. Home Sweet Home Ministries provides resources for homeless and hungry people in our community, and operates the Mission Mart.   Recycling Furniture for Families works with a network of social service agencies to help people break out of homelessness by providing furniture and other household items.

Students living in ISU Residence Halls may utilize drop off bins located in the lobbies of each building; these items will be collected and repurposed by the Bloomington Housing Authority.

Accepted items:

  • Furniture in good condition
  • Electronics and small appliances (working or non-working)
  • Canned goods and other nonperishable unopened foods
  • Gently used clothing, shoes, sheets, towels

Items donated by students will help these organizations fulfill their missions and keep items out of the landfill at the same time.  The ISU Move Out Donations Initiative will run May 2nd through May 12th.

RECYCLING

In addition to donating items to non-profits, students should also remember regular recycling during move out time.  Recycling receptacles for paper, cardboard, metal, glass and plastic are abundant on the ISU campus.  Town of Normal roll-off bins for these materials are located near the ISU campus at Chiddix Junior High (near Anderson Pool), ISU parking lot at 100 N University,  Normal Tax Assessor’s Office (304 E Mulberry),  and University Center (1101 N Main).

In addition to just being the right thing to do, keeping materials out of the landfill is also the law in some cases.  As of January 1, 2012, it became illegal to dispose of most consumer electronic devices in an Illinois landfill.  Electronic devices, including cell phones, computers, televisions, game systems and ALL the peripheral equipment  and accessories must be recycled through a licensed company.  Students can be sure that items donated to organizations through this initiative will be handled properly.

Organizers hope students will embrace this opportunity to dispose of their possessions in a responsible manner, divert thousands of pounds of waste from the landfill, and assist local charitable organizations all by supporting this effort.  ISUmoveout.org is the central location for move out resources.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County.

Successful Clean Up Event Yields Nearly One Ton of Trash

The Ecology Action Center in partnership with McLean County Wheelers, Friends of the Constitution Trail, Bike BloNo, and the Lake Run Club held a successful clean up of Sugar Creek and the Constitution Trail on Saturday, April 19 as part of Bloomington-Normal Clean Up Week.  30 volunteers contributed over 100 hours of labor, working from Tipton Park west along the trail and creek.  The resulting haul totaled nearly one ton of trash removed from the creek and trail.  Thank you to everyone who volunteered and helped protect our local environment.

 

April and May Rain Barrel Workshops

The Ecology Action Center is excited to announce our hands-on workshop where YOU rain-barrel2build your own water saving rainwater collection and storage container. Commercially available rainwater collection and storage systems range in price from $75 – $200, but the Ecology Action Center is offering build-your-own rain harvesters at very reasonable prices.

The workshop includes:

  • 55 gallon reused food grade heavy gauge plastic barrel or ~275 gallon MEGA Rain Harvester (not food grade)
  • A flexible elbow to direct rain water from your downspout to your rain barrel. Fits on 3″ downspouts.
  • A 6″ heavy duty screen to prevent entry of mosquitoes and leaves
  • High quality brass plumbing and rubber O-rings for long life
  • Overflow hose and fittings with mosquito barrier
  • Instruction and use of all tools needed for the project
  • Workshop excludes installation materials for your specific home which may include concrete blocks, hacksaw, screwdriver, sheet metal screws, etc.

The fine print: This workshop runs rain or shine. The construction process can get a bit messy so wear clothes that can get dirty. The barrels measure 25″ wide and 35″ tall and weigh approximately 25 pounds. Bring an appropriate vehicle to transport your barrel home. There is a limit of one rain barrel per household per workshop. We will be using power tools; safety glasses are required and will be provided. For safety reasons, all participants must be 18 years or older.

To see the schedule of current dates and sign up online, consult the BN Green Events Calendar.

Spring 2014 Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Update

Improper disposal of household hazardous wastes pollutes our local water supplies and environment.  Whether it is thrown out with regular trash going to a municipal waste landfill, dumped illegally down the drain, storm sewer, or in a ditch, these actions compromise the safety of drinking water thereby threatening the health and well-being of area residents.

The Ecology Action Center, acting as the local solid waste agency, receives inquires daily from concerned residents who wish to dispose of materials properly.  Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection events are the primary means for safe disposal of many of these materials.  While no spring HHW events are planned for our area, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has scheduled HHW collections in Lewistown on June 7 and DeKalb on June 21.  More details are available at the IEPA website at http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/household-haz-waste/hhwc-schedule.html.  These collection events are open to any Illinois resident to bring residentially-generated HHW for proper disposal—no business waste is accepted.

Historically state funding provided for annual HHW collection events in McLean County from 2003-2007.  Unfortunately, due to state budget cuts, this funding has become much more irregular and infrequent with a gap in state HHW funding for McLean County for six years.  To meet the community’s needs, in 2012 the Ecology Action Center raised over $160,000 in contributions and in-kind services to hold the first-ever locally funded HHW collection in the McLean County area.  This effort resulted in the largest HHW event ever in this community as thousands of households sought to dispose of a backlog of hazardous waste.  This unique and wildly successful funding strategy drew recognition ranging from an Honorable Mention among the 2013 Governor’s Sustainability Awards to the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Green Excellence Award.  IEPA provided funding for a 2013 HHW collection in McLean County, but the frequency of receiving such funding in the future remains unknown.

Currently, the Ecology Action Center is working on a new strategy with area partners to help provide for more regular HHW collection events for area residents.  However, in the short term the EAC urges residents to adopt three strategies for dealing with household hazardous waste.

  1. Take advantage of IEPA funded HHW collections in other communities when possible. See the spring schedule at http://www.epa.state.il.us/land/hazardous-waste/household-haz-waste/hhwc-schedule.html.
  2. Utilize local programs to dispose of some categories of HHW including household batteries, CFLs, electronics, automotive fluids, medicines, and mercury thermostats.  See locations and details of these programs at http://www.ecologyactioncenter.org/waste-and-recycling/ways-to-locally-recycle-some-hhw/.   Please note, many of these programs are limited to residential waste only due to funding limitations.  Businesses should contact the Ecology Action Center for resources for hazardous waste disposal.
  3. Reduce generation of hazardous waste in the first place.  Avoid the problem of disposal by buying safer alternatives to hazardous products, buy smaller quantities of hazardous products in order to avoid leftovers, or find others that can use leftover hazardous products through neighborhood associations, the Pantagraph’s Good Neighbor column, or through the McLean County Freecycle: http://groups.freecycle.org/McFreecycle.

More information on hazardous waste disposal and nonhazardous waste disposal are available at www.ecologyactioncenter.org or by calling 369-454-3169.  Free resources include a notification email list for HHW updates, instructions on disposal of nonhazardous latex paint, suggestions on alternative (non-hazardous) products, and information on the EAC’s Yard Smart program, promoting sustainable landscaping and gardening with less synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

 

U.S. EPA Seeks Public Comment on Mahomet Aquifer Designation

Release Date: 03/12/2014
Contact Information: Peter Cassell, 312-886-6234, cassell.peter@epa.gov

CHICAGO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed approval of a petition to designate a portion of the Mahomet Aquifer system in east-central Illinois as a sole source aquifer. EPA’s public comment period on the proposed designation begins March 13 and closes June 12, 2014.

The Safe Drinking Water Act gives EPA authority to designate an aquifer as a sole or principal source of drinking water for a specified area. That designation allows EPA to review all federally funded projects within the designated area to ensure they will not contaminate the aquifer.

The Mahomet Aquifer system is an underground layer of water-bearing sand and gravel that fills a wide bedrock valley in all or parts of 14 east-central Illinois counties. The aquifer system is the source of approximately 53 million gallons of water every year for 120 public water systems and thousands of rural wells that serve about a half million people. More than half of the population in east-central Illinois relies on the Mahomet Aquifer system as a source of the drinking water.

EPA will hold two public hearings on May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1501 S. Neil St., Champaign; and on May 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Morton Park District’s Freedom Hall, 349 Birchwood, Morton. Oral and written comments will be accepted at both hearings. Informational sessions in advance of the public hearings will run from 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. on both evenings.

Draft documents and information about the public hearings are available on EPA’s website at http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/gwdw/mahomet/index.htm. Documents are also available at:
· Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., Champaign.
· Bloomington Public Library, 205 E. Olive St., Bloomington.
· Pekin Public Library, 301 S. Fourth St., Pekin.
· Havana Public Library, 201 W. Adams St., Havana.
· Watseka Public Library, 201 S. 4th St., Watseka.
· U.S. EPA’s Region 5 Office, 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago.

Comments should be addressed to William Spaulding, U.S. EPA (WG-15J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590 or spaulding.william@epa.gov. For questions or additional information contact William Spaulding at 312-886-9262, or EPA’s toll-free line at 800-621-8431, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (weekdays).

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