By now everyone has probably seen the big California Oil Spill on the news. How about the two Illinois Oil Spills, one in Galina and one near Sidney in the Salt Fork of the Vermillion River? Read about them here:
While these are dramatic examples, it doesn’t take a train-wreck-sized spill to have an environmental impact. Even small events matter. So you are paddling your favorite body of water, and notice a chemical sheen. Besides being grossed out…what do you do? One paddler of the Fox River on Memorial Day weekend experienced just this. Jake, contacted the local authorities in Aurora who were extremely responsive. Eric, who has been involved with volunteer water quality monitoring projects, and also happens to be the City Engineer was able to trace the spill back to the source and clean it up! The Illinois EPA was also notified to investigate the spill. Great Victory guys!
A few years back, also on the Fox, some paddlers discovered a fish-kill off. They contacted local authorities. Eventually the culprit was found, and justice served. Great Victory!
Last Month, Mike Taylor and Tom Eckels were paddling the Little Calumet River. We discovered a illegal disposal site of truck tires and automotive parts behind a trucking company, dumped in the river. A call was placed to the local authorities. It is yet to be seen as to what happens. Let’s hope for another great victory!
So you are paddling on your favorite waterway. You find a chemical spill or an illegal dump site. What do you do? First of all, do not come into direct contact with any potential contaminants. Let the professionals do their job. The safest thing to do is to report it. But to whom. A good place to start is your local village/town/city/county hall. The staff there could direct you to the local authorities who can take direct action. Additionally these types of incidents fall into the jurisdiction of the Illinois EPA. For a chemical spill or other emergency; For A non-emergency:
Another tool available is the Report a Water Trail Problem of the Water TrailKeepers. WTK volunteers are willing to assist as much as we can!
No responsiveness from the local government or Illinois EPA? Consider contacting your State and/or Federal Senator or Representative’s office. Putting a little political heat under the feet of those responsible is always an option. Also find organizations such as the Illinois Water TrailKeepers, Prairie River Networks, American Rivers, River Alliance, Friends of groups, etc. etc. etc. to help address the issue. Many organizations have existing relationships with authorities, and can call on their relationships to help get things cleaned up!