Water Contamination Issues in IL
by Jacob Pearson
The Clean Water Act of 1972 and the IEPA Water Quality Programs
In addition to the Clean Water Act, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) promotes the protection of water sources in order to preserve their benefits. These include protection of aquatic life and maintenance for recreation, navigation, and agricultural purposes.
It is hoped that by gaining awareness of both the Clean Water Act and the water quality programs, it can lead to the first steps in lowering water pollution levels. Without these regulations, water contamination will only continue to increase.
Contamination in Illinois Water Resources
- Clinton Lake
- Des Plaines River
- Fox River
- Kaskaskia River
- Lake Decatur
- Ohio River
- Sangamon River
- Illinois River
- Lake Springfield
All of these water sources have received water quality ratings from the IEPA of either "fair" or "poor". Many of these water resources are said to be "severely impaired and [are unable to] support a designated use." These water quality readings show that water contamination is very widespread, but where is most of this pollution coming from?
Industrial Pollution of Illinois Waterways
An example of industrial discharge into waterways is the constant release of coal ash near the Illinois River as conducted by the E.D. Edwards plant. This water pollution has created a toxic and heavily contaminated setting of groundwater. This process has led to continued contamination with the addition of other toxic metals, such as arsenic and mercury.
These industrial wastes can furthermore include poisonous chemicals, animal waste, fuels, and countless other threatening substances. They cause significant harm to the waterways themselves, the life that inhabits them, and the residents of the state that use these water sources for many purposes. The Environment Illinois Research & Education Center stated that many waterways are not safe for use by people, specifically when used for recreation and drinking water.
Lead, Bacteria, and Other Harmful Substances in Chicago Water
Furthermore, the Chicago River has been found to contain harmful bacteria due to its interaction with sewage. In comparison to waterways throughout the US, the bacteria concentration in the Chicago River is much greater. This can be a major health risk when used for recreational purposes as well as for drinking water. In coming into contact with this bacteria ridden water, many diseases can be spread to the population, such as E. Coli.
How to Maintain Healthy Water Quality and Prevent Further Contamination
However, in order to extend this healthy water maintenance and prevent further contamination of waterways, many more extensive procedures will have to be performed. Industries will need to end their use of toxic chemicals, such as the previously mentioned lead and mercury, and instead find alternative resources and fuels for their needed operations. It will be required that human waste and similar substances be disinfected before being released into water resources. These sewage overflows will altogether need to be ceased completely as well.
Once these measures can one day be ensured, the water resources of Illinois and the country as a whole can be protected and kept healthy. The EPA Bureau of Water states that the waterways will then have to be monitored continuously to ensure a healthy environmental quality. By maintaining the water in the environment, all waters can be healthy, "fishable, and swimmable" for the Illinois population.