Canoeist looking at erosion on a riverbank

Riverbank near coal ash ponds found unstable

Environmentalists and community members in Vermilion County have expressed deep concern over the pollution from toxic chemicals seeping from large coal ash ponds into the Middle Fork River in Vermilion County. But engineering experts warn there may be a greater risk posed by the collapse of the riverbank holding back more than 600 million of gallons of toxic coal ash.

A 2017 engineering study paid for by Dynegy Corp., the previous owner of the site, shows that the river is rapidly undermining the riverbanks near the ash ponds. The company has made a least two attempts to harden the riverbank against further erosion, but the banks remain unstable.

The study was obtained through an Freedom of Information Act request by the Eco-Justice Collaborative, a non-profit environmental group in Champaign, that has shared it with news outlets.

Since the report, the riverbank has continued to erode, according to environmentalists, community leaders and Dynegy itself.

a river running next to a coal power plant and its coal ash ponds

Loose regulations allow coal ash to threaten river

Each year thousands of families boat down the Middle Fork branch of the Illinois Vermilion River below an embankment that holds back 3.3 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash sludge stored in three large ponds. Coal ash pollution is leaching into the river, and the riverbank is eroding under the ponds. We examine what’s a stake in this investigative report.

Damage from dicamba spurs confusion, questions

In 2016, Monsanto released its dicamba-resistant soybeans in the company’s largest ever rollout of a new biotechnology.
But its accompanying herbicide – XtendiMaxTM herbicide with VaporGripTM Technology – was not approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until several months later, leading some farmers to use other versions of the herbicide on their soybeans.

In wake of new Monsanto seed, Illinois sees more crop damage

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has received 368 complaints so far in 2017, which are more alleged pesticide misuse complaints than in the previous three years combined, according to a review of a statewide database of complaints by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

Central Illinois already seeing effects of climate change

“We’re actually at the warmest part for the historical record for Illinois,” said State Climatologist Jim Angel, speaking to a crowd of about 60 at the Champaign Public Library on Tuesday. “This is a different climate for what our parents, grandparents or great grandparents would’ve experienced in Illinois.”

Central Illinois farmers rally against proposed water rule

By Robert Holly/CU-CitizenAccess.org — Thousands of agriculture groups and independent farmers – including many from Champaign and other central-Illinois counties – are using a public comment window to express concern over federally proposed water regulation. The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule is a joint-proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. The rule aims to clarify which bodies of water the two federal agencies can lawfully regulate. The agriculture industry has largely opposed the rule, as farmers argue it will impede on their operations through unnecessary and unclear regulation. “It’s very concerning,” said Lin Warfel, a corn and soybean farmer from just outside Tolono.

Champaign takes step toward sustainable city

By Maisie Sackett / For CU-CitizenAccess.org — The city of Champaign has set a goal to be “a model for environmental sustainability.”

But it has found it is much easier to set the goal than reach it. Among the challenges are limited budgets, shortage of community participation and debates over approaches. “It’s a great goal, but we’re a long, long way from that,” said Lacey Rains Lowe who has been with the city six years and is now head of the Champaign Growing Greener Plan. Setting the goals

The city plans to call for improvements to energy efficiency in city buildings and increasing the availability of recycling, among other programs.

To help City Council achieve these goals, the Planning Department of Champaign started the Champaign Growing Greener Plan about a year ago. The plan has been focusing on improvements towards energy efficiency in facility buildings, storm water run off, transportation and more.