Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bighead Carp

On December 3, 2009, rotenone, a fish toxicant, was released into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal (CSSC) to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan. The action to release the toxicant into the canal was in response to the required scheduled maintenance of one of two electric barriers currently in operation on the CSSC. The electric barriers operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were constructed to prevent the movement of Asian carp and other invasive species into Lake Michigan. While the barrier was shut down for maintenance the toxicant was applied as a precaution to guard against Asian carp entering Lake Michigan. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources in coordination with a multi-agency Asian Carp Rapid Response Workgroup managed the application of the rotenone. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District was not involved with the application of the toxicant, however, the District cooperated with the multi-agency workgroup by allowing the agencies access to District land and the canals. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Frank Avila is holding the only Bighead Asian Carp that was found during the project. The Bighead carp was found upstream from the MWRDGC Lockport Powerhouse. The majority of the other fish found were common carp and other species. At the present time the multi-agency workgroup is continuing to work together to address the on-going Asian carp issue.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Asian Carp DNA Found Upstream of the Barriers

UW Sea Grant Insititute has more information on the possible Asian carp breach here.

Read other articles on the breach here, here, and here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Toilet Day

Today is World Toilet Day! A day to celebrate the importance of sanitation and raise awareness for the 2.5 billion people (nearly half of the world's population) who don't have access to toilets and proper sanitation.

Click here for more information on World Toilet Day.

Click here to read an article by my colleague, Commissioner Shore, about the importance of today.

Asian Carp Invasion Video

Check out these informative videos on Asian Carp:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to Close for Fish Barrier Maintenance

During the first week of December, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning on performing maintenance on one of the two electric barriers in operation on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. During this period the Canal will be shut down to all traffic for a period of four to five days. The electric barriers in the canal were put in place to stop the movement of Asian carp into Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. Asian Carp pose a significant threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem because of their ravenous feeding and spawning habits. If introduced to the lake, the Asian carp would be very difficult to control and would quickly out-compete native species by disrupting their food chain and consequently become the dominant species in the lake. This would not only devastate the Great Lakes ecosystem but have a significant economic impact on the $7 billion fishery. Asian carp have been detected using environmental DNA testing in the canal below the barrier. Therefore, when the electric barrier is shut down for maintenance there is a fear that the Asian carp could travel down the canal to Lake Michigan. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources who is working with other environmental agencies such as the MWRDGC as part of the Asian Carp Rapid Response Group will be applying Rotenone, a fish poison, in the canal during the electric barrier shut-down. According to IDNR, the Rotenone will provide the highest level of certainty that Asian carp will not advance past the electric barrier when shut down. Rotenone will kill the Asian carp as well as other fish in the canal but when used properly does not present a risk to people or other wildlife.

For more information read the IDNR press release and Asian carp FAQ.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Turn Red for Study

U.S. Geological Survey Scientists injected a harmless bright red fluorescent dye into a stretch of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on Tuesday, November 10, 2009. According to the USGS, "the dye study is aimed at obtaining information on the dispersion and travel times of waterborne contaminants in the canal and characterizing leakage to adjacent water bodies such as the Des Plaines River and I & M Canal. Such information is used by Federal, state, and local agencies for various engineering applications, especially water-quality monitoring and control and invasive species management." One such invasive species of concern is the Asian Carp, which pose a significant threat to the the aquatic communities and fisheries in the Great Lakes.

For more information read the USGS news release and their Red Dye Studies FAQ.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Board Meeting Notice

A friendly reminder that there is a MWRDGC Board Meeting at 10:00am on Thursday, November 5, 2009. The Board Meetings are held in the Board Room at 100 East Erie Street, Chicago. All members of the public are welcome to attend. There is also a special meeting to discuss the 2010 MWRDGC Budget at 1:00pm on Thursday. Click here for Board Meeting details and agenda.

Other Meetings:
There will also be two study sessions to solicit public comment on the Watershed Management Ordinance. The first meeting will be this Wednesday, November 4, 2009, at 7:00pm at Glenbrook North High School, 2300 Shermer Road, Northbrook Illinos. The second meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 7:00pm at Maine West High School, 1755 South Wolf Road, Des Plaines, Illinois.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Japan promotes Global Handwashing Day

October 15, 2009 Millions of children and adults in over 80 countries are marking the second annual Global Handwashing Day with special events and activities. As part of this effort, UNICEF Japan and its partners have launched a project to promote handwashing among children in Japan and around the world.

Watch the 'Global Handwashing Dance' public service announcement, choreographed and performed by Kaiji Moriyama to promote improved hygiene for children in Japan and worldwide.

Handwashing with soap is an effective way to prevent the spread of diseases and illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and the H1N1 infuenza virus. It is one of the most affordable and effective interventions to prevent needless deaths of children under the age of five.

The UNICEF Japan initiative has two objectives: to promote proper handwashing and to raise awareness about the problem of children dying of preventable diseases.

A global movement

Children from Cambodia, China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar and Timor-Leste participated in a second video spot that is being shown on digital billboards in Japan.

By featuring these children from across the globe, the spot illustrates how handwashing with soap has become a worldwide movement. It is hoped that the video will foster a sense of camaraderie among children in different countries and regions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Water Conservation: The Little Things Count

I've posted a video below where celebrities Jessica Biel and Pete Wentz talk about water conservation at a Live Earth press conference. They are participating in Live Earth's Run for Water, which is a series of 6km runs/walks (the average distance many women and children walk every day to secure water). Jessica Biel talks about how she never really thought about where water comes from -- that you turn on the faucet or get in the shower and don't think that this is a precious resource or that many people around the world don't have access to safe drinking water. Pete Wentz also emphasizes that every day 5,000 kids die because their drinking water is unsafe. I think it's great that there is an event like this to draw awareness to water conservation and the lack of clean drinking water in many areas of the world. As Jessica Biel talks about, the little things really add up in water conservation such as not running your water when you brush your teeth or taking shorter showers.

My only comment on this project is that they are ignoring an important piece of the puzzle. Not only should we highlight the lack of clean drinking water, but the lack of adequate sanitation in many areas around the world. 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation and this problem goes hand in hand with the lack of clean drinking water. Adequate sanitation can drastically cut down on disease and save lives just like, if not more so than access to clean water. When you think about clean water also think about where that water goes after you make it dirty, or where our waste goes after we flush it down the toilet. Many areas in the world not only need clean drinking water, but also access to a sanitation system: two things we can take for granted.

Monday, October 5, 2009

National Prostrate Cancer Awareness Month, September 2009

Photo: Commissioner Frank Avila presents MWRDGC Resolution to Doctor William J. Catalona for National Prostrate Cancer Awareness Month.

September was National Prostrate Cancer Awareness Month. In the last decade, significant progress has been made in the fight against prostrate cancer. Despite this progress, more work still needs to be done to find better ways to prevent, detect and control this disease. Among men, prostrate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in America and the second leading cause of cancer deaths.
I know personally how this disease can affect you and those around you. Last year, I was diagnosed with Prostrate Cancer and had "nerve-sparing" radical prostatectomy surgery. The surgery was successful. I was lucky I caught the cancer early and was able to seek out treatment for the disease.
There is a great need to continue to raise awareness and increase knowledge about this disease by supporting prostrate cancer research. I also want to urge all men, especially those over the age of 40, to talk to their doctors about their risk of prostrate cancer and, if appropriate, get screened for the disease.
I was honored to sponsor a MWRDGC resolution for Prostrate Cancer Awareness Month that was presented in the September 17th MWRDGC Board Meeting. In the resolution, I also honored Doctor William J. Catalona, Medical Director of the Urological Research Foundation. Dr. Catalona leads one of America's premier teams of physicians and scientists in the endeavor to treat and find a cure for prostrate cancer.
I applaud the dedication of researchers and doctors such as Dr. Catalona and the Urological Research Foundation, and all who are working to increase knowledge of prostrate cancer so that lives can be saved.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Commissioner

I want to welcome a new Commissioner to the MWRDGC Board. Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Mariyana Spyropoulos to the seat left vacant in Janury by Commissioner Patricia Young. I look forward to working with newly appointed Commissioner Spyropoulos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New legislation to protect water quality

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that asks state officials to take proactive steps toward combating the threat of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals and other hazardous chemicals detected in our waterways. The law requires the Illinois EPA to establish programs to educate the public on the proper disposal of household hazardous waste and to provide places to dispose of household hazardous waste. Read about it here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Board Meeting Notice

A friendly reminder that there is a MWRDGC Board Meeting at 10:00am on Thursday, August 6, 2009. The Board Meetings are held in the Board Room at 100 East Erie Street, Chicago. All members of the public are welcome to attend. Click here for Board Meeting details and agenda.

Board Meeting Schedule 2009
August 6
September 3
September 17
October 1
October 15
November 5
November 19
December 1 (Annual Meeting)
December 3
December 17

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meeting with Mexican Dignitaries

I met with Mexican Dignitaries from the State of Zacatecas on Friday, July 17, 2009 to discuss water environment issues and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to share advancing technology.

As a Commissioner at the MWRDGC, I deal primarily with treating wastewater and protecting the quality of our water here in the greater Chicago area. I recognize, however, that the quality of water here affects the quality of water everywhere in North America and even the world. That's why it's important to work together on a local and global level to protect our resources. I was truly honored to meet with these Mexican Dignitaries to discuss global environemnt issues and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with them.

From Left to Right: Diputado (similar to a United States State rep. or Senator) Rafael Candelas Salinas, Commissioner Frank Avila, Diputado Federal (similar to a Federal Congressperson) Carlos Alberto Puente Salas, and Presidente Municipal (Mayor) Alfredo Bueno.

Besides visiting and touring the MWRDGC, our guests also visited the other government agency that deals with water on the top side -- the Chicago Water Department. We were lucky enough to go on a tour of the Jardine Water Filtration Plant with them. Above is our tour guide, Diane Cardella, explaining the history of water filtration in Chicago. (Just to remind everyone, the MWRDGC is a separate government agency from the City of Chicago Water Department. The MWRDGC does not deal with what comes out of your faucets, but what you flush down your toilets and drains.)

Here we are at the Jardine Plant looking at the water that has been pulled in from the water cribs in Lake Michigan.

And here is the final product!

Watch my new PSA!

Have you ever wondered what happens after you flush the toilet? Where does all that "stuff" go? Watch my new PSA to find out. Smart, little Iris and I explain the wastewater treatment process and what you can do to help the process and protect the water environment. Click here to watch!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What's in our Water?

As I've expressed before, pharmaceuticals in our waterways is an issue that should not be ignored and needs more research. Check out this article in the Tribune about drugs in our water.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Water at the Field Museum

I want to encourage everyone to go visit the Water Exhibition at the Field Museum. The exhibit is an informative and eye-opening look at one of our most precious resources -- water. There is also a great short film in the exhibit that a number of MWRDGC staff helped create, which explores what happens to water before it comes out the faucet and after it goes down the drain. In the picture above I am standing outside the Water Exhibit with Nancy from the Nutrition for Optimal Health Association and Mary Beth from Green Parents Network. Below are some more pictures from the reception I attended for the Water Exhibit.

Here I am with the Executive Director of the Field Museum, Commissioner Patricia Horton, Mary Beth from GPN and Nancy from NOHA.

Here we are again standing with a beautifully painted rain barrel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Calumet-Sag Trail Groundbreaking

I attended the Calumet-Sag Trail Dedication Ceremony on Saturday, June 6, 2009. The Calumet-Sag Trail is a multi-use path built along the banks of the Calumet-Sag Channel and Calumet River that spans 32-miles and crosses 14 communities from Lemont to Burnham, Illinois. The trail should be officially open by 2012. This trail will not only connect communities but will provide these communities with a place to go to explore the outdoors, to walk, jog, bicycle, and appreciate nature. For more information on the Calumet-Sag Trail please visit the Friends of the Calumet-Sag Trail Website.

Here I am with Executive Director of the MWRDGC, Richard Lanyon.

Here I am with other members of the community at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Here I am next to one of the MWRDGC's sidestream elevated pool aeration (SEPA) stations. There are numerous SEPA stations located along the Calumet-Sag Channel. These SEPA stations or waterfalls were designed both to enhance the surrounding scenery and to improve the quality of the water. The Calumet-Sag Trail will also provide us with both enhanced scenery and a better quality of life. Just like our SEPA stations improve water quality by exercising the water to provide dissolved oxygen to stagnant water which allows fish and wildlife to flourish, the Cal-Sag trail will provide a better quality of life by providing communities a place to exercise, which helps keep people healthy and joyful.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Park District Eco Day Camps

This summer, the Chicago Park District is offering great eco-centric day camps, allowing our youth an opportunity to get outdoors and appreciate nature through kayaking, nature walks and fishing. The children will also participate in games and activities related to the environment.

For more information on this program please click here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Board Meeting and Public Hearing

At 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 3, 2009, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District will be holding its bi-monthly board meeting in the board room at 100 East Erie. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

In addition, the Board will be holding a public hearing at 12:00 p.m. This hearing will allow public comments on a proposed $600 million bond issue which would allow the District to renovate aging facilities while also building new pumping stations and sewers.

Board Meeting Schedule 2009
May 21
June 4
June 18
July 9
August 6
September 3
September 17
October 1
October 15
November 5
November 19
December 1 (Annual Meeting)
December 3
December 17

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

President Lech Walesa

I attended the dedication of Lech Walesa Hall at Northeastern Illinois University. Lech Walesa, former President of Poland and recepient of the Noble Peace Prize, visited Northeastern Illinois University for the dedication and celebration. Lech Walesa played a major role in the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Lech Walesa's exemplary courage, vision, and dedication to human rights has been a great inspiration worldwide. As the City of Chicago is home to the largest Polish population outside of Poland itself, I was proud to attend this building dedication and to have the honor of meeting Lech Walesa.

Lawndale Avenue Solids Management Area (LASMA)

I recently visited the Lawndale Avenue Solids Management Area (LASMA). LASMA is where treated biosolids from our water reclamation plants undergo further processing . As I explained in a previous post, biosolids are nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage. At the wastewater treatment plants, raw sludge is processed in anaerobic digesters to reduce volatile organic compounds and pathogens. After the digesttion process, the biosolids are than either transported directly to the LASMA lagoons via a pipeline or piped to the centrifuge facility to undergo mechanical dewatering. After the centrifuge operation, the dewatered biosolids are transported to LASMA by either truck or train. The biosolids are processed further at LASMA to become a more suitable product for benefical reuse. For more information on the MWRD's biosolids program click here. Below are some pictures I took when I visited LASMA.

Above is a picture of the train that transports the dewatered biosolids from the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant to LASMA.

Here is another picture of the dewatered biosolids on the train.

This picture shows the biosolids being emptied into the Lagoons at LASMA. Storing in lagoons is the first step of processing the biosolids at LASMA. The biosolids are stored in the lagoons to further reduce volatile organic compounds and pathogens.

This is a lagoon that is just starting to be filled up with biosolids. The biosolids are typically stored in the lagoons for a minimum of 18 months.

The pictures above and below show another lagoon.

The biosolids are then removed from the lagoons by a crane with a clamshell bucket and are transported by truck to a drying site.

Here is a picture of the crane that transports the biosolids.

This is a picture of the clamshell bucket that retrieves the biosolids from the lagoon.

The biosolids from the lagoon are placed on the asphalt drying site. Here I am pointing at the drying area. Once dried, biosolids are ready for utilization as farmland application, landfill cover, and construction and topdressing of parks and recreation facilities.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Norwood Park Memorial Day Parade

Green Fest Pictures

My wife, daughter and I at the entrance to Green Fest

Mary Beth from Green Parents Network and I

My wife and I

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Newly Elected Officials Meet 'n Greet

On May 20th, 2009, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago welcomed newly elected public office holders and their top managers from throughout the District for the "Meet 'n Greet & Nuts 'n Bolts" Forum at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant. The forum allowed the public officials to meet the Board of Commissioners and some of the District's senior staff, while also providing them with an overview of the ways in which the District strives to protect Lake Michigan and the Chicago Area Waterways.

I enjoyed meeting all of these great new public officials and I look forward to continuing my work with municipal leaders from throughout the district to protect our water environment.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Board Meetings

The MWRDGC holds public board meetings twice a month (except in July and August). The next board meeting is this Thursday, May 21st at 10am in the board room at our main office building (100 E. Erie, Chicago). I want to encourage the public to attend these meetings and to be actively involved with the Board. Click here for board meeting details and agenda.

Board Meeting Schedule 2009
May 21
June 4
June 18
July 9
August 6
September 3
September 17
October 1
October 15
November 5
November 19
December 1 (Annual Meeting)
December 3
December 17

Friday, May 15, 2009

Biosolids, Poop...

Biosolids are nutrient-rich organic materials resulting from the treatment of sewage at a wastewater treatment facility. Basically, biosolids are our treated poop. Biosolids are recycled and used as fertilizer for farming and gardening. Here is a link to the EPA's FAQ on biosolids.

Currently, there is a discussion over the best way to get rid of biosolids. This article explores the present biosolids situation -- how although using biosolids for fertilizer is an attractive solution, there are environmental concerns as to the chemicals found in biosolids. Further, the article probes if there are more desirable ways to recycle biosolids such as converting it into energy.

Related to the power of biosolids, below are two articles that also explore, well, what do do with our poop. First, this article in the Chicago Reader about a local woman, Nancy Klehm, who started a poop composting project. And this article, which delves into whether disposing of poop in our water is the best practice.

5th Annual Chicago River Summit

Friends of the Chicago River will host the 5th annual Chicago River Summit on Friday, June 5, 2009 at the Merchandise Mart. The Chicago River Summit focuses on identifying sustainable solutions for the issues that impact the Chicago River. The theme for this year's Summit is the responsible development and planning of the Chicago River corridor. Registration is $20.
For more information click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pharmaceuticals in our Water

This article talks about how State Senator Susan Garrett, D-29th, of Lake Forest invited representatives from various governmental agencies including the MWRD to discuss the growing concern over pharmaceuticals in our water.

This issue of pharmaceutical chemicals winding up in our water bodies is something that I have been concerned about as well. Sewage treatment plants are not designed to fully remove drugs from treated water. Therefore, chemicals from the drugs pass through sewage treatment plants and are released back into our water bodies. Research has shown that these chemicals can cause reproductive and developmental problems in fish and other aquatic wildlife. The exact threat to human health from pharmaceuticals in our water supply is not fully known, but it is something we should continue to research and be cognizant about.

One way to help combat this issue is to properly dispose of unused and expired medication. Pharmaceuticals end up in our waterways when we flush or trash old medication. You shouldn't flush old medication down the toilet or drain or put old medication in the trash. Drugs thrown in the trash can also affect the aquatic environment by leaching into landfills and winding up in our groundwater.

Cook County has numerous permanent medication disposal locations where you can take your medications to safely dispose of them. Click here for a list of disposal locations.

Other organizations and governmental agencies such as the MWRDGC hold hazardous waste collection events where they collect medication and other hazardous material and dispose of them for you. Click here for a schedule of upcoming events.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rain Barrels

I thought a post about rain barrels would be appropriate in honor of our rainy day. Rain barrels are great tools to help conserve water and manage stormwater. During the summer months up to 40 percent of our tap water is used to maintain our lawns and gardens. Rain barrels help reduce that amount by capturing rain water from your downspout that you can then use in lieu of tap water on your garden, lawn, and potted plants, or even to clean your car. You can make your own rain barrel or purchase one. The MWRD is currently selling Rain Barrels for $40. Click here for more information.

A few board meetings ago, Boy Scout Michael Frank was honored by the board for his wonderful rain barrel eagle scout service project. Michael wanted to do a service project that would benefit the environment and chose to focus on water conservation by installing rain barrels in his community of River Forest. For more information on his great project click here.

Also, related to the topic of rain barrels, my articulate and thoughtful colleague, Commissioner Debra Shore, wrote a thought provoking piece entitled A Day Without Water on The Huffington Post awhile back about our dependence on water and how we should take steps to be more responsible with this precious resource.

It's easy to take water for granted and frown on a rainy day, but remember that all water even rain water is a precious gift that we can't live without!

Global Handwashing Day

Handwashing with soap and water is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. That is why on October 15th we will be celebrating Global Handwashing Day, a day to promote a regular practice of handwashing worldwide.

Please visit the Global Handwashing Day website to learn more about this all-important project.

Chicago Green Festival

This weekend, check out local and national green businesses and listen to a nationally renowned lineup of speakers covering all sorts of green topics at the Chicago Green Festival. There will also be how-to workshops, green careers, a Fair Trade pavilion, Youth Unity Pavilion, kids’ activities, delicious organic beer, wine and cuisine, and live music for your entertainment. Come on out to have a good time and learn about green technologies and strategies being used to make our communties better places to live.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rose George and the Politics of Toilets

I ran across this post by Rose George in The Washington Post, PostGlobal section. Rose George is a freelance journalist and author of The Big Necessity a fascinating and informative book about the global politics of human waste. Her post, The Politics of Toilets, discusses how inadequate sanitation plagues a quarter of the world's population and how few international resources and attention are devoted to this significant global issue. Most attention in developing countries is focused on access to clean water, not treating wastewater. This article reminds me how important treating wastewater is for a functioning society.

My Goals

Photo: I'm being sworn in by the Honorable Edmund Ponce de Leon.

As a recently re-elected Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, I feel that it is important to inform the public of my goals for this new term. Below is an excerpt from the speech I gave at my Installation Ceremony on December 2, 2008 that summarizes my priorities for the next six years.

There are many issues facing the water environment in our District, our state, and our nation today. As a commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, newly re-elected to a second term, I believe that while it is important to create water quality improvement goals at national and global levels, stewardship of our water environment must begin by acting locally. I have a number of goals for my second term as a commissioner of the Water Reclamation District. I would like to share several of these priorities with you, which are aimed at further increasing the quality of the water environment within our District:

1) The completion of the capital improvement project at the District Water Reclamation Plants. These upgrades will allow the District to maintain our status as a world leader in wastewater treatment.
2) Preventing the entry of pharmaceutical drugs into watersheds by encouraging healthy lifestyles which would decrease the need for pharmaceutical use and, therefore, also decrease the amount of pharmaceutical disposal.
3) The construction of permanent hazardous products collection buildings at our District wastewater treatment plants giving the public the opportunity to dispose of their hazardous household products in a convenient, environmentally friendly way every day of the week.
4) Encouraging organic farming, landscaping, and other efforts to reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful fertilizers that increase non-point source pollution in our state, therefore assisting the District in protecting our water environment.
5) Encouraging water conservation efforts with an emphasis on the District leading the way as a role model for the rest of the community. This has already begun through various projects including the District’s prairie restoration project and rain barrel sales, which act to conserve and make use of valuable rain water. These efforts can continue through educational programs, such as a localized version of WEFTeach, which would bring teachers from community schools to the District for educational programs concerning wastewater treatment and water conservation. These teachers can then take that information back to their classrooms, helping educate the next generation of environmental professionals.
6) Bringing together religious groups and organizations based on a common belief in the importance of environmental stewardship. By combining their resources, these organizations can better achieve their common environmental goals.
7) Encouraging amendments to water regulations, such as the Clean Water Act non-point source regulations, that have reached a level of stagnation in their water improvement goals.

With these goals in mind, I believe that we can build a better water environment for our families and our community.

Wash Your Hands!

The first line of defense against the spread of disease is to wash your hands. This is an easy yet important habit that helps keep people healthy and happy. You should regularly wash your hands before and after eating or handling food, after coughing and sneezing, after touching animals, and after using the bathroom.

Please watch this public service announcement I made that teaches children the importance of washing their hands. Treating wastewater and washing hands go hand-in-hand -- they both help prevent the spread of disease!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Crestwood Public Forum

Last week, hundreds of citizens turned out for a public forum in Crestwood, IL to hear their questions answered about the village's decades long practice of mixing polluted well water into the city's drinking water supply. Read about the story here.

Field Museum Water Symposium

This Wednesday, May 13th, the Field Museum is hosting a symposium entitled Water: Sustaining Our Blue Planet. Here is a link for more information about this event. This roundtable should create some great discussion about the current state of water resources worldwide as well as presenting potential solutions for some of the problems facing our water supplies.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Letter Re: Crestwood, IL

As many of you have surely seen, it was recently revealed to the city of Crestwood, IL that the local government had been mixing tainted well water into their drinking water supplies for over twenty years.

In response to this disclosure, I sent a letter to the editors of a number of newspapers around the Chicago area. Though the letter was not published, I would like to share it with you now:

The recent revelation that the residents of Crestwood have been exposed to harmful chemicals in their drinking water for over twenty years highlights an all-too-present problem. Whether it is through ignorance or indifference, officials at every level of government have been under-reacting to environmental concerns that have the potential to cause serious harm to individuals and communities.

Though the case in Crestwood is more dramatic and immediately dangerous than most environmental issues, the lack of accurate and clear public information is an unsettling trend. I believe that government officials who hold information regarding environmental hazards from the public should have to answer for their dereliction of duty. When knowing disregard for human health and safety is carried out by individuals or corporations they pay heavy prices for their actions through large fines and, in severe cases, possible imprisonment. Government officials who put the community in equally dangerous positions by withholding information from the public or regulatory agencies should be held similarly accountable for their actions.

Governor Quinn has taken quick action in Crestwood, calling for an investigation into possible improprieties and the Illinois Attorney General’s office is looking into the matter, but the underlying issues still remain. Until we begin assigning true accountability to the people who hold this vital public information, until we begin making clear statements that environmental dangers should always be public knowledge, nothing will be done and we will be left with no recourse, just a blind hope for honesty.

Gov. Quinn Demands Crestwood Investigation

Here is an article about Governor Quinn demanding answers from the state EPA on Crestwood's tainted well.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Welcome to my Blog

Hello. My name is Commissioner Frank Avila of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. I thank you all for taking the time to come and read my blog.

Right now I would like to quickly introduce myself to all of you. I grew up on the Near West Side of Chicago before going on to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana where I received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. I then completed my Master of Science in Finance from the University of Arizona before coming back to the Chicago area. After amassing over 40 years of experience as an engineer and land surveyor, including 26 years during which I owned and operated an engineering company, I was elected to the MWRD. Currently, I live in Chicago with my lovely wife, Sherry. Sherry and I have three children, all of whom are also Chicago residents.

I was re-elected to a second term as Commissioner in November of 2008 and I look forward to continuing to partake in the invaluable work that the MWRD does every day, protecting our water environment. I would like to use this space to help inform the public about environmental issues that face our city, state and nation. I will also post updated information on the work that I am doing, both as an elected official for the MWRD and as a citizen concerned with environmental stewardship.

Please check back in often to get the most recent updates on the issues, my work, and other fun things we happen to think are of interest.

For more information about the MWRD, please visit Thank you all for your time and support. Hopefully I will see you back here very soon.