UI gets funding to track pollution

By Christine Kim

In order to prevent pollution from contaminating water sources, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency signed a $94,305 grant allowing the University to further develop a database. The database tracks the location of pollution control devices installed in bodies of water.

The grant, approved on Jan. 25, has been signed by both the director of the Illinois EPA and the University. The agency is currently looking over the minor changes made by the University and is ready to date, or finalize, the document. The grant will be fully executed in the next couple of weeks.

“With this grant, we can compile information so both (the University and Illinois EPA) can make better choices on what work needs to be done and how to prioritize them,” said Maggie Carson, spokesperson for Illinois EPA. “In order to make decisions, we need a base of knowledge. In this research, there’s only a limited amount of funding, and we need to spend the money wisely.”

In order to receive the grant, the University applied and met with the Illinois EPA to discuss the goals proposed regarding pollution.

“Since our University has played such an important role in agricultural research, the development of the database will continue our ability to provide innovative and practical solutions to farmers in our region,” said Joseph Teng, president of Students for Environmental Concerns and junior in ACES. “Since proper irrigation and reliable sources of water are critical to state, the database will serve to protect our state’s water resources and ensure sustainable and productive farming for years to come.”

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Scott Ristau, environmental protection specialist for the Illinois EPA, said the University has worked in cooperation with the Illinois EPA for approximately 20 years and will continue to work with the University.

The database is focused on a type of pollution called nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution occurs when water from rain and melted snow transfers the natural and human-made pollutants from the ground into lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, ground water, and coastal waters.

The grant was given by the Nonpoint Point Source Management Program, which was established in 1987 when Congress amended the Clean Water Act.

The act requires that all states report the major sources of nonpoint pollution and problems to their respective EPA. Each state is also required to identify methods that will reduce nonpoint source pollution and adapt them into their management programs.

To aid states in implementing nonpoint source management programs, Congress established Section 319 (h) to award grants to states. Nutrient management for farms, waterways, restoration of wetlands and collecting and treating urban runoff in agricultural areas are all funded under the section 319 programs. These grants helped methods of controlling pollution in water sources and the development of databases.

“We would like to ultimately expand the database and include other states and not just the Illinois EPA,” Ristau said. “We would like to see it grow geographically to see where it’s going in other states.”