Walkin' With the Wild Woman

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

EPA Alleges Illegal Discharge of Livestock Waste From Illinois Cattle Facility

Illinois EPA Refers Vermilion County Cattle Farm Operator to Attorney General for Enforcement

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Bonnett has referred an enforcement action to the Illinois Attorney General’s office against Gabe Shepherd, for allegedly causing, or allowing the discharge of concentrated livestock waste from the facility into Stony Creek and the Vermilion River so as to cause water pollution in Illinois. In the referral, Illinois EPA asks the Attorney General to obtain an immediate order requiring compliance measures to be taken by Mr. Shepherd.

Gabe Shepherd is named as the operator of the cattle farm, located at 4560 E. 1850 North, Fithian in Vermilion County. The facility includes several cattle feed lots and an in-ground manure collection pit, which is pumped to an aboveground tank for storage prior to land application.

On September 11, 2015, Illinois EPA received a Hazardous Materials Incident Report, reporting that a valve was left open on an aboveground manure storage tank, resulting in the release of an unknown amount of liquid cattle waste into Stony Creek. Illinois EPA inspectors were dispatched to the site and noted the open valve had allowed manure from the storage tank to backflow into the containment pit, causing the pit to overflow and discharge. The waste flowed from the pit, over land and then through a grass waterway before reaching Stony Creek. Inspection of the area identified impact several miles downstream, reaching the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River. Inspectors also observed a potential threat to the Oakwood public water supply (PWS), located seven miles downstream from the facility. The Oakwood PWS operator was notified and has kept the water intake pump off to cease pulling water from the River to protect the Village’s water supply.

Illinois EPA inspectors also identified dead fish that had been impacted in the Stony Creek and the Salt Fork. Illinois Conservation Police and Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries (IDNR) were dispatched to the site the same day in response to the fish kill. IDNR fisheries biologists estimate the pollution affected about 10 miles of river and stream, killing fish up to the Oakwood Road bridge over the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River.

An IDNR biologist estimates 98,747 fish were killed with a value of $24,064.33. The biologist also confirmed that at least three state-listed fish species have been killed (River Redhorse, Bigeye Chub, and Bluebreast Darter). The pollution also passed through one of the relocation sites for the federally endangered Northern Riffleshell and Clubshell mussels. The impact on the mussel population could not be determined during the fish kill investigation, as high turbidity from the pollution and above normal flow prevented visual observation of the substrate in most locations.

In the referral, Illinois EPA identified numerous violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, Illinois Compiled Statutes and the Illinois Administrative Code. Illinois EPA is seeking prompt enforcement action and proper remediation of the impacted areas. Remediation activities include collection of any waste located outside of the waste management system, thorough cleaning of drainage area down gradient, and restoration of grass waterway impacted with activities to be completed by September 30.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hunters, Landowners Encouraged to Report Suspected Cases of EHD

IDNR has received 47 EHD reports from 17 Counties so far in 2015 
SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has received reports of 47 suspected cases of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in wild white-tailed deer so far in 2015.  EHD appears to be more prevalent in west-central Illinois counties including Adams, McDonough and surrounding counties. In all, reports have come from 17 counties (see map attached). EHD was also confirmed in captive deer herds in Adams and Schuyler counties with heavy losses reported.

Scattered EHD cases were reported across the southern third of Illinois as well as two counties (Stephenson and Winnebago) in northern Illinois.  EHD was also confirmed in multiple cattle herds in Jo Daviess County.

The worst year for EHD was 2012 when 2,043 cases were reported from 76 counties. In 2013, IDNR received reports of 403 cases from 51 counties.  EHD was virtually absent in 2014.

IDNR continues to ask landowners, hunters, and concerned citizens to be on the look-out for dead or dying deer, and to report suspected EHD cases to their local IDNR field office, or to the Wildlife Disease and Invasive Species Program (WDIS).  IDNR is especially interested in sick or recently dead animals as staff may attempt to collect tissue samples in order to confirm the presence of the EHD virus.

Contact information for local IDNR biologists is available at the following web site http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/professionals.cfm .  Contact the WDIS Program at (815) 369-2414 or by email at doug.dufford@illinois.gov.  Please provide your name and contact information as well as the county, number of dead/sick deer, sex (if known), age (fawn or adult) and specific location of the deer (distance/direction from the nearest town or intersection of two roads). 
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is a viral disease of white-tailed deer that can cause localized die-offs when conditions are favorable for transmission.  Infected animals develop a high fever and dead animals often are found near water sources. Hunters may encounter deer killed by EHD when they go into the woods during the upcoming deer hunting seasons. EHD outbreaks typically end when freezing weather kills the insects that spread the virus.  While often fatal to deer, EHD is not hazardous to humans or pets.  EHD has been shown to affect livestock, so producers are encouraged to be vigilant.

The virus is transmitted between deer by a midge that hatches from muddy areas along lakes/ponds and streams/rivers.  Although EHD is observed somewhere in Illinois every year, cases are more numerous during hot and dry summer weather conditions, presumably because receding water levels create these muddy areas, providing breeding sites for the midges.  Limited water resources also congregate deer at remaining watering sites, creating conditions favorable for disease transmission.  

A map showing the distribution of EHD-suspected deer reports as of September 15 for 2015 is available at this link: