Lake County wastewater agencies form Des Plaines River Workgroup

NSSD President Stephen Drew (middle), Vice President Dan Pierce (left) and Trustee Beverly “Sugar” Young chat before the district's Aug. 13 board meeting. The district is celebrating its centennial this year, which will be marked by a new logo and name on Jan. 1, 2015. |  Ed Collins /For Sun-Times Media
NSSD President Stephen Drew (middle), Vice President Dan Pierce (left) and Trustee Beverly “Sugar” Young chat before the district's Aug. 13 board meeting. The district is celebrating its centennial this year, which will be marked by a new logo and name on Jan. 1, 2015. | Ed Collins /For Sun-Times Media

The North Shore Sanitary District and numerous Lake County agencies have teamed up to form the Des Plaines River Watershed Workgroup.

As the two largest agencies in group, NSSD and Lake County aim to create a new wastewater environmental action plan. The consortium also plans to coordinate its work with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

John Heinz, Libertyville’s director of Public Works, is spearheading the formation of the volunteer group, along with Andrea Cline of the Lake County Stormwater Management Agency.

The goal is to help the Illinois EPA improve and maintain water quality within the Des Plains River watershed by reducing phosphorus, fecal coliform, chloride and other pollutants that enter the river and its tributaries from discharge pipes, agricultural properties and storm water run-off.

Both the federal and state EPA have been putting pressure on wastewater polluters to cleanup their watersheds, workgroup officials said.

Heinz said the voluntary team effort in Lake County will address the situation without the need for mandated regulations and more stringent pollution discharge permit requirements on local municipalities and regional sanitary districts.

Three similar voluntary workgroups have been formed in Illinois to address watersheds that flow into the Mississippi River Basin.

The DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, the Fox River Study Group and the Lower DuPage River Watershed Coalition are being considered models for Lake County, Heinz and Cline told NSSD trustees.

“We expect the Des Plaines River Watershed Workgroup will be organized similar to the DuPage and Fox River models,” Heinz said.

According to Heinz, the workgroup will remain voluntary and a dues scale will depend upon how many votes each member agency has. The group will be governed by a set of bylaws with an elected board of directors, and provide community benefits such as water quality improvements, local decision-making, cost savings, EPA permit compliance with shared monitoring and public educational efforts. Heinz said dues would not be assessed until June 2015.

“Annual dues and grants will be used to implement a comprehensive, watershed-wide monitoring program, which will be the basis for implementing water quality improvements, and to cover technical and administrative support,” Heinz told NSSD trustees.

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