Waterkeeper News: Mega pollution requires a Gulf of real regulation

After attending a June 26 rally against slaughterhouses and huge hog confinement plants in Rock Island County, eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois, and listening to speakers Karen Hudson of Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water, Chris Peterson of the Iowa Farmers' Union, Terry Spence of Family Farms for the Future, Frank Schier and Art Norris went exploring the next day and found a shop of a Rockford company on the Mississippi River. Universal Hovercraft, located here in Rockford just south of the Morgan Street bridge, also has a fine shop with many hovercraft in Cordova. For more about these inventive and amazing craftsmen, go to http://dev.hovercraft.com/content/. Co-owner Bill Zang was kind enough to have Shane Wikey take Schier and Norris out on the big river. To see more photos, go to http://picasaweb.google.com/quadcitieswaterkeeper/20100626HoverCraftMississippiRiver#, and click on "Slideshow." Willkey is also pictured in the slide show with Heidi Hill, who drove her hovercraft to work when the Iowa bridge was closed for repairs. The hovercraft under construction above can be seen at the Village of Winnebago's Fourth of July celebration. Ask nicely, and limited test rides might be available. Watch the upcoming issues of this paper for more about these great people and their incredible work. Photo by Frank Schier

Editor’s note: Art Norris is the Quad Cities Waterkeeper. He looks after 150 miles of the Mississippi River and about 100 miles of the lower Rock River. For more information, visit quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org.

Please make the calls and e-mails he requests. The effort just takes an instant in a lifetime, and Mother Nature needs you.

By Art Norris
Quad Cities Waterkeeper (QCW)

In my last few columns, I have been talking about legally requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (I.E.S) for the proposed Triumph Foods pork processing plant on the Rock River, as well as the A. J. Boss mega-dairy in JoDaviess County, which is under construction and possible injuction.

For more information about the crisis in your neighboring county, go to www.StopTheMegaDairy.org.

The dangers of the ever-increasing industrial agriculture become more apparent every day. Is this why an I.E.S. is so important, you may ask?

Yes, if the industry can do this next to an Illinois wetland, and on top of karst, which comprises so much of the state, they can do it anywhere. As defined by www.karstwaters.org/kwitour/whatiskarst.htm,  “Karst is a special type of landscape that is formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks, including limestone and dolomite. Karst regions contain aquifers that are capable of providing large supplies of water.”

Weak (such as the superficial Environmental Impact Assessment [E.I.A.]) or no regulations are going to destroy Illinois’ watersheds if we don’t want to wake up to a Gulf-style disaster on our one or more of our rivers.

Please paste this address http://picasaweb.google.com/quadcitieswaterkeeper/RockRiverWetlandsWildlifeOfBarstow-RoadEastMolineIllinois# to see the Barstow Road Wetlands. The first seven photos were taken this past Saturday with Monica Eng, a Chicago Tribune reporter. These limited examples show what we all stand to lose. And where is the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency  (IEPA), you may ask?

An article from Trade and Industry Development states that former Rockford Mayor and IEPA Director Doug Scott is going to help Triumph Foods build with minimal environmental impact.  QCW would like to know what that is. Who determines what minimal is? Can Doug Scott provide a study on this minimal environmental impact? Someone should ask Mr. Scott what he meant by this statement. The article also states that the IEPA is working with Triumph Foods. This was before the project site was even bought. I would think the IEPA would be working with the public to protect the Illinois residents, wetlands, wildlife, and the drinking water of 18 million people all living on the Rock and Mississippi rivers. Industry first; citizens, the environment and lifewater last.

Read the pro-industry sentiment for yourself at http://www.tradeandindustrydev.com/issues/id-219-article.aspx.

WHAT HE'S FIGHTING FOR: Quad Cities Waterkeeper Art Norris stands behind the hydro-electric plant below the dam at Rock Island. He's looking in the direction of the site for the proposed Triumph Foods pork rendering plant on the Rock River, which will process 16,000 hogs a day. He not only fights for the Rock River, but also for the water quality of the Mississippi River so pelicans like these (below) can survive. Pelicans have been sighted locally this year at the site of the proposed bridge where Meridian Road meets the Rock River. Photos by Frank Schier

The www.tradeandindustrydev.com article states: “Local officials recognized concerns over the project’s potential drawbacks. ‘We are excited to be working with a modern facility that will implement best practices, ultimately producing minimal environmental impact while providing an important economic boost to the community,” said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott. “We will work to guide Triumph and East Moline through the regulatory process to operate in both an environmentally and community-friendly way.’”

Speaking of a “guide,” just try to find out where the permit stage is. The IEPA site won’t allow the QCW to do a FOIA request. It’s been this way for more than two years. They say the URL doesn’t work. Here we go with snail mail, when the taxpayer dollars that built this site for fast FOIA replies seem to be wasted. Oddly, the rest of the site works fine.

One thing is for certain. Triumph Foods nor the IEPA can’t say if the plant is built and wells become contaminated, wetlands are destroyed, and water for millions polluted, they were not warned to do an Environmental Impact Statement to protect the public.

Hundreds of sworn affidavits exist against the Triumph Foods plant but the Corps wouldn’t accept them.

Now, from a report by CBS Channel 4 WHBF-TV, I am afraid Triumph Foods may have received their permits without even a public comment period, or maybe Doug Scott made them believe it was clear sailing. QCW recently heard that former Gov.  Rod Blagojevich and Doug Scott were roommates in Springfield when they were state representatives.

How sad is this? The people deserve to know who is handling the IEPA permit stage on Triumph Foods.

Please take action, and join the Quad Cities Waterkeeper; you have a right to have a voice for your Rock River.

Photo by Frank Schier

To speak up and help, go to http://quadcitieswaterkeeperuppermississippi.org/ or call 309-721-1800.

Also, please go to http://www.saveourgulf.org/ to “Donate and Help Save Our Gulf.”

As our site states: “The Gulf Waterkeepers are our first line of defense against the BP oil disaster. Their incredible knowledge of the marshes, wetlands, beaches and inner-coastal waters make them invaluable first responders. Their commitment makes them critical and effective community leaders. Their wealth of scientific, legal and political expertise provides answers to the questions we have about our environment. Their dedication to a full recovery of the Gulf is unmatched…

“Your donation provides everything the Waterkeepers need to help save the Gulf, from protective gear and clean-up supplies, to emergency office space and food for disaster-response volunteers.”

The need is urgent. Reports are coming back—some of the clean-up crews are getting sick.

Please go to http://www.saveourgulf.org/ and help now.

From the June 30-July 6, 2010 issue

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