IEPA Project to Help Peoria Residents Clean the Illinois River

PEORIA — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing a project designed to reduce the amount of pollution that enters the portion of the Illinois River that runs through Peoria and East Peoria. 

The project is aimed at reducing pollution in two watersheds that feed into the Illinois River, including one in Peoria and one in East Peoria. The pollution that feeds into the watersheds are caused by erosion, storm water runoff, sewer overflows and road salt.

The Middle Illinois River Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) workgroup identified the two watersheds for the project.
“We were specifically asked to look at this area of the Illinois River,” said Jennifer Clarke of the IEPA. “We choose two subwatersheds in the study area, one bluff area and one urban area.”
The United States Environmental Protection Agency provided the funding for a TMDL study and implemenation planning for the project.
“The TMDL is being finalized now,” said Clarke. “As far as our implementation planning, we only could get funding till the end of the year, so it has to be done now.”
The TMDL study identies what areas need to be modified to prevent pollution from entering the watersheds.
“We try to promote and educate implementation actions in the watershed that can be done,” said Clarke. “We do a report on what needs cleaned up and how much. This could mean decreasing the amount of stormwater using practices, such as buffer strips and rain gardens or decreasing the amount of erosion from farm fields using buffer strips and contour farming. Every watershed is different.”
The implementation planning outlines actions that stakeholders in the area of the watershed can take to clean and maintain cleanliness in the watershed.
“We are using computer models to show us where we can do implementation efforts,” said Clarke. “We are hoping to be successful and provide this information to the people in the area and then they can replicate this in other subwatersheds in the area, if they are interested. Usually, if there are interested stakeholders, a watershed group is formed.
“For successful implementation, the group usually monitors water quality or uses some computer modeling and can see where implementation actions would be more cost effective and more beneficial. Some groups have applied for a IEPA 319 grant for funding for either a watershed plan with specific actions and/or funding for actual implementation activities.”
According to Clarke, stakeholders in the portion of the Illinois River that runs through Peoria and East Peoria have expressed an interest in developing a watershed group.
“There were stakeholders interested in this area of the river,” said Clarke.
The IEPA doesn’t have the authority to perform most implementation activites.
“As far as point sources, we do have regulatory authority to make changes to permits,” said Clarke. “We can make reductions in pollutants from a facility discharge.
“As for nonpoint sources, we do not have any regulatory authority. We can give implementation activies for the watershed, but it is eventually up to the people in the watershed to implement.”
The IEPA plans to perform TMDL studies in other areas of the Illinois River in the future.
“There are other areas of the Illinois River that are impaired and will eventually need TMDLs,” said Clarke.