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Illinois in the 21st Century: Science for Natural Resource Management - The Scientific Surveys are pooling their expertise to attack major environmental problems facing Illinois

Statewide hunt for pesticides in water Installing and testing 225 monitoring wells throughout the state is the basis of this program funded by the Department of Agriculture. The data will help determine which pesticides can be used safely, and the proper application rates to protect groundwater from contamination.

Aquifer analysis and mapping Cooperative studies of water resources are fundamental work of the Surveys. Field drilling, lab analyses of samples, monitoring of water yields, mapping of the depth and distribution of water-yielding deposits, and modeling of flow systems have helped in evaluating water-resource options in every county of Illinois; recently, in Carroll, De Kalb, De Witt, Douglas, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Livingston, McLean and Tazewell (Mahomet Valley aquifer), Peoria, Piatt, and Shelby Counties.

Assessing soil contamination at agrichemical facilities: the denser the data coverage, the better At two sites, scientists took four samples from 15-foot-deep holes bored on a 40-foot grid. Lab analyses for 62 chemicals disclosed widespread contamination at the sandy site and three hot spots at the clayey site. Detections of pesticides dropped with depth at both sites, but concentrations were significant.

Gases and leachates escaping from two landfills, detected via isotopes Analyzing water samples for compounds with distinctive isotopic "signatures' (based on atomic weight) can be useful for gaining information about aquifers: (1) source of contaminants, (2) source of recharge, and (3) age of water (how fresh it is). A new, state-of-the-art Flow-through Compound Specific Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer will make it possible to detect even smaller amounts of contaminants in groundwater.

Dredging the Grand Calumet Industries and sewage have polluted this major river system on Chicago's south side for more than I 00 years. To provide data for decisions about navigational dredging of the waterway, Survey scientists sampled and analyzed river sediments. Sediments in some areas of the river are heavily contaminated with metals and organic chemicals.

Coal ash disposal in abandoned mines One way to dispose of power plant coal ash is to put it underground. To test this solution, researchers injected combustion byproducts into an abandoned coal mine, then monitored the groundwater, as well as modeled the movement of contaminants. Modeling results show that, under realistic conditions, no contaminants will move from the mine; so the method is a safe means of disposal.

Microorganisms filtered from drinking water Survey engineers, working with the Mattoon water department, are studying the effectiveness of advanced ceramic micro-filters for reducing turbidity and removing microorganisms from surface water. The new technology looks promising for small water utilities seeking to comply with increasingly stringent standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Tracking metals in Lake DePue wildlife area Survey teams are helping DNR identify and quantify metals in sediments dredged from the lake and pumped into ponds. A total of 45 monitoring wells will identify any migration of contaminants. Knowing the distribution of metals and their potential to migrate will aid DNR in long-term management of the site.

Livestock waste lagoons Survey scientists give expert testimony based on their research on designing large-scale waste lagoons to prevent spills and leakage. They are also monitoring groundwater for potential leakage at unlined lagoons.

Prevent pollution, cut costs Survey engineers helped a Chicago metal plating firm evaluate and adopt alternative processes and technologies that have improved efficiency while reducing waste generation. The firm has reduced metal pollutant discharges by more than 95% and water consumption by more than 90%. The company has saved thousands of dollars in raw materials usage and waste disposal costs as a result of these efforts.

Innovative filtration technology cuts a company's hazardous wastes from 20,000 to 30 gallons per year Survey engineers helped a Bloomington metals fabrication firm develop and implement a filtration system that has drastically reduced a huge, expensive waste problem. The company dips metal parts into a 5,000-gallon bath of water and chemicals. When the solution got too dirty, about four times per year, the tank was dumped. Total cost: $30,000. The new filtration system reduced the waste volume by more than 99% and chemical raw material costs by about 70%. Capital investment in the technology was paid back in less than 6 months.

Waste tires Survey engineers are testing whether waste tires could be a low-cost source of carbon adsorbents to remove mercury and other toxins from flue gases, or to prevent unburned hydrocarbons like gasoline from being released into the atmosphere. Eliminating tire dumps also eliminates a major breeding ground for disease-carrying species of mosquitoes.

ISSUE: Water, Quantity, Quality, Safety

The Scientific Surveys map, measure, and monitor surface and groundwater throughout the state. Fully 90% of lllinois' rural population relies on groundwater for household, business, and agricultural use.

Focus of studies:

  • where are surface and groundwater supplies adequate for growing communities?
  • what is the quality of a given region's water resource?
  • where are water sources vulnerable to drought or contamination?

ISSUE: Waste Solutions, Not Pollution

Think of waste as a potential resource. Plant managers are encouraged to think of waste as a raw material they bought and paid for, but failed to fully utilize. Now they're paying someone to dispose of it.

Focus of studies:

  • working with businesses and citizens to develop and install technologies that solve pollution problems,
  • helping businesses reduce compliance costs and improve the environment by increasing process efficiency,
  • developing new technologies to turn coal and waste tires into high-value carbons that can capture pollutants.


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