Lake Michigan

Water Justice and the Grand Cal

The Grand Calumet River after restoration work

The Grand Calumet River after restoration work

 

Not far from Chicago’s South Side Altgeld Gardens, where Hazel and Cheryl Johnson helped birth and nurture the critical work of environmental justice, meanders the Grand Calumet River.

The two branches of the Grand Cal come together to flow out through the Indiana Harbor Canal into Lake Michigan. These waterways are home for some of the heaviest industrial legacy pollutants in the country. Neighborhoods that line the river experience some of the toughest blight of any urban area. Some 90 percent of the river’s flow comes from municipal and industrial effluent, cooling and process water, and stormwater overflows.

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EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Lakefront Lunacy

By Cameron Davis

When my cousin/godson Jamie issued the challenge in late December to join him and about a dozen of his college friends to dive into the cold waters of Lake Michigan on January 1, I couldn’t resist. After nearly three decades of working on and recreating around the Great Lakes, this was something I’d never done before.

On January 1, the outside air temperature was 20 degrees. The water temperature along the lakefront: a mild 34 degrees.

As we sat in the parking lot at Evanston’s Lighthouse Beach waiting for everyone to arrive, my brother in law Charley wondered out loud: “do you think anyone else will show?”

A text from Jamie came in. Some of his friends “got the time mixed up” and—not surprisingly—would not be showing up. “Jamie will show,” I reassured Charley (and myself). “He’s got good mettle.”

A few minutes later, Jamie arrived, a single soldier among his battalion that was AWOL. We marched stolidly toward the icy water’s edge, peeled off layer after layer of clothing until we were only in our bathing suits, then plunged into the breaking whitecaps.

Actually, the dive wasn’t all that bad. The numbness took a bite out of whatever pain we would have normally felt. Still, I was happier after the fact, than during.

With all my instincts screaming, “don’t do it!” as I walked to the water, I still did it. But there was one thing I couldn’t bring myself to do: call this ritual the “polar bear plunge.” After all, we don’t have polar bears in the Great Lakes. If you ever contemplate doing something crazy like jumping into these frigid waters to celebrate a new year, we now have a more indigenous name for it: lakefront lunacy.

About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Future Environmentalists

The 4th grade class at Drummond Elementary recently became the environmentalists to look out for in the future.  With Lake Michigan within driving distance and city parks at their back door, these kids have seen the effects littering and pollution have taken on natural resources. They wanted to take action and make a difference.

And they did.

For Earth Month in April, these 4th graders created, designed , printed, and distributed a newsletter for the school’s community and network.  They call it their “Green Tips” sheet and it includes quick and easy ways to use less energy, promote pollution reduction and use the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).   Their goal was to communicate how important it was to keep the world clean and green. As a bunch of 4th graders put it, “It’s our planet too!”

These are some savvy 4th graders.  Can’t wait to see what they do when they grow up.

Yvonne Gonzalez recently finished an internship with the Air and Radiation Division in Chicago.  She currently works at EPA in Washington, DC in the Chemicals Control Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.