New research shows the Tyson Fresh Meats animal slaughtering facility in Hillsdale was the top water polluter in Illinois among major agribusiness operations in 2014.
That year, the Tyson Fresh Meats plant released over 2 million pounds of pollutants into the state's waterways, according to the Environment America Research & Education Center's report.
The environmental advocacy group examined the "water pollution footprints" of Tyson Foods and four other major agribusinesses, Cargill, JBS, Perdue and Smithfield, in Illinois and other states. Forty-four percent of the nation's pork, chicken and beef is produced by those five companies, according to the report.
Researchers analyzed the most recent 2014 data from the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) on pollution discharges into waterways from the five major agribusinesses. Among the findings, Tyson's facilities released the most pollutants nationwide -- nearly 21 million pounds.
That's more pollutants "by volume than even Exxon Mobil or DuPont," according to the environmental group.
The following was co-authored by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL,7) and Environment Illinois' Brittany King.
Clean water is the cornerstone of life. We need it for drinking, bathing, eating, playing, brewing, and everything in-between. Unfortunately, Illinois' waterways are in jeopardy now more than ever. From toxic chemicals to combined sewage overflows to factory farm runoff, there is currently more haunting our waters than there is to be thankful for.
As rain returns to Chicago we are faced with the prospect of more and more combined sewage overflows as our water systems are overwhelmed, releasing contaminated water into Lake Michigan. Since 2014, over 20 billion gallons of contaminated water have been released into Lake Michigan. What's even scarier is that 5 million people rely on Lake Michigan for clean drinking water every day.
It's not just Lake Michigan facing threats, however; waterways throughout Illinois are all facing a variety of pollution problems. In fact, these problems plague waterways nationwide.
A new report tracking the effects of climate change over the last five generations of Americans shows young people in Illinois and across the country have inherited a "hotter, more extreme" climate.
For its "Dangerous Inheritance" report, the Environment America Research and Policy Center examined changes in average temperatures, precipitation and sea-level rise over the course of five generations -- from the Baby Boomers to Generation Z, defined as those born between 1995 to 2009. Researchers include climate projections for today's Generation Alpha, or those born between 2010 and 2025.
Younger generations in Illinois and across the country are facing warmer temperatures plus more frequent and extreme storms than when the Baby Boomers were entering adulthood, according to the report.
If 30 percent of the nation's electricity came from wind energy by 2030, the country would sharply cut global warming pollution and meet carbon-reduction targets in the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan.
That's according to a recent report by the Environment Illinois Research and Education Center, which analyzed the potential benefits of a scenario in which wind power supplied 30 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2030. Wind power currently generates 4 percent of the country's electricity.
Achieving 30 percent wind energy by 2030 would reduce U.S. power-plant carbon pollution to 40 percent below 2005 levels, according to the report. And those projected carbon reductions would be more than enough to comply with the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan regulations, which look to slash CO2 emissions from existing U.S. power plants to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
"That much wind power would help states meet and exceed the carbon dioxide emission reductions called for by the Environmental Protection Agency's draft Clean Power Plan, and help the nation meet its commitment to cut U.S. carbon pollution by 26 to 28 percent by 2025" as part of a climate change agreement with China announced by President Barack Obama in November, the report reads.
The "Wasting Our Waterways" report ranks Illinois as the 13th worst U.S. state for the total volume of toxic industrial releases to waterways.
At the national level, polluting facilities dumped 206 million pounds of harmful chemicals into American waterways in 2012, according to the report. And some 8.39 million pounds of toxic pollution were discharged into the Great Lakes watershed. Ammonia, chromium and lead are among the chemicals released into Illinois' waterways, according to the report.
An extremely small plastic pollutant poses a big threat to the health of the Great Lakes and the state's environment. And some Illinois lawmakers are looking to take action against the problem.
At issue are the super-tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of personal cosmetic products like facial wash, body scrubs and even toothpaste. According to scientists, tens of millions of these little plastic particles have made their way into the Great Lakes.
The cosmetic microbeads, which are less than 5 millimeters in size and commonly used to help with exfoliation, often get washed down household drains. Because the plastic beads are so small, they are not captured during the water treatment process, allowing them to get into waterways.
"There's no way to recover those materials once they're out in open waters," said Olga Lyandres, research manager at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "Once they enter the environment, they stay there."
Factory farms are one of the leading causes of pollution in Illinois’ rivers and lakes, according to a group of environmental activists who called on the state to impose stricter regulations—and even a moratorium—on industrial livestock production.
“Clean water is critical to the environment, to public health, and to the quality of life in Illinois. Factory farms seriously threaten the health of our waterways,” said Lisa Nikodem, campaign director for Environment Illinois Research and Education Center.
Environment Illinois joined organic farmers Wednesday morning at the Heartland Café, located at 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. in Chicago, to put a spotlight on water pollution caused by the large-scale release of animal waste at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), commonly called factory farms.