2014 Elk Grove Village Cleanup Day

The EGV Salt Creek clean up was a huge success due to the volunteers from Christus Victor Boy Scout troop 95 and Elk Grove Village park district equipment and operators. The creek was scoured from Arlington Heights road down to Clearmont street. The water was low and clear and temperatures perfect which was ideal for the clean up so the Scouts were able to remove a lot of garbage. They collected the usual construction cone and horse a corrugated drain pipe and one of the most peculiar things was a auto radiator as well as the obligatory bicycle.


There were also many other items that one has to wonder how did that end up in the creek in the first place? This was the twentieth year of cleanups in EGV and it is astounding how much was cleaned out over all, it would make a mountain of garbage. Our environment is such a precious jewel that deserves our understanding and respect and for some of us lucky enough to live along the Salt Creek, it is a humbling reminder of how awesome mother nature truly is. I believe this was the 32nd cleanup over all in EGV with a total accumulation of around 72 cubic yards of garbage cleaned up from this just over a mile stretch of creek.

Please mark your calendars for the 21st annual EGV Salt Creek cleanup on Saturday June 6th 2015.

There are also several cleanup days all along the creek in other towns throughout the year, making a difference cleaning up the entire watershed. 

Thank you to all the volunteers that help bring the Salt Creek into public awareness and help restore its natural beauty.

Nick Nikola
President, Salt Creek Watershed Network

Dash of Salt Creek

Early this spring, Shirley Runge, a science teacher at Queen of the Rosary School in Elk Grove Village, contacted Salt Creek Watershed Network from our web site  asking if anyone could come and speak to her class of junior high students about Salt Creek.  The students had been learning about the creek, walking along its banks, testing the water quality and finding out about it.

Salt Creek runs behind the school and everyone who attends classes is very familiar with it because during periods of high water flow, the creek invites itself right into the school parking lot, flooding it until the creek recedes into its normal banks.  It was inevitable that the two should meet, the creek and students from the science class.

I volunteered to go to Queen of the Rosary on a gray day in early May as part of SCWN’s outreach program.  All eyes and ears were focused on my brief presentation.  I told the students a little history of the creek, its origins in the far northern suburbs, how Lake Michigan water makes the creek flow because of the numerous treatment plants that process waste water from all those suburban homes, including theirs.

We talked about living things along and in the creek.  A variety of fish species, reptiles, mammals, insects and plants owe their existence to its flows.  I also quizzed them on water quality and helped them understand some of the results of the water quality tests that they did on the creek banks.  

The students enjoyed that morning session and comments from some of them were sent to me via email later by their teacher.  “I learned a lot”, “it was interesting and informative” and “I never knew that some fish require more oxygen than others” were a few of the things that the students said.

I really enjoyed the morning and wished that I could have more time with the students.  It’s one thing to talk about the creek but what really lights the lamp is when we can get right into the water and explore everything that makes the creek  special and unique to this area.

Stan Zarnowiecki

“No Dumping” Signs Installed on Addison Creek

Photo by Mark Peterson

Photo by Mark Peterson

Thank you to Mark Peterson who brought this sign project to fruition

With the cooperation of the staff at the Public Works Department of the City of Broadview, we have been able to have a number of signs marked “No Dumping or Littering” installed along Addison Creek at various points as it flows through the Broadview area. The signs, printed with our logo and website, ask people to help keep the creek clean and provide the phone number of the Broadview Public Works Department to report any violations or pollution issues.

Salt Creek Watershed Network supplied the actual signs, while the Broadview Public Works Department contributed the needed posts and accompanying hardware and then installed them at key locations along the creek.

Our hope is that the signs will help increase awareness of Addison Creek and the role it plays within the Salt Creek Watershed and beyond, as well as the importance of trying to keep it clean.

Because the area where Addison Creek flows through Broadview is primarily industrial, we have recently been reaching out to businesses located near or along the creek, asking their help in cleaning up any accumulated trash along the banks of the waterway and providing information on the role the creek plays in the local watershed. In some cases, trash and junk from unknown sources has been dumped purposely along the banks by parties unknown, but in other cases, poor housekeeping practices at a couple of the area businesses have resulted in large quantities of paper and plastic trash blowing around and winding up along the banks of the creek. These items can eventually make their way into the creek itself and besides being an eyesore, can become part of the bigger problem of accumulated trash and plastics in our waterways.

In addition to the trash issue, the street sewer openings in the area are part of the village storm water system and they drain directly into the creek. Anything spilled or dumped in or near these drains either on purpose or by accident will drain directly into the waterway. Runoff from lawn chemical herbicides and pesticides during a heavy rain can find its way into the creek as well.

Although Addison Creek in the Broadview area flows primarily through an industrial area, it does have a narrow green space along its banks and is the home for various birds and animals. Migratory birds may use the area as a resting spot as they move north and south in the Spring and Fall. In the past, Wood Ducks and even a lone Sandhill Crane have been seen in and along the water. Canadian Geese and Mallard Ducks are commonly seen in the water and nesting along the banks. The area just to the South near Salt Creek is part of the Cook County Forest Preserve and is home to deer and a variety of other animals and birds. In the winter when the creek is frozen and covered with snow, it is not unusual to see tracks of deer, raccoon, opossum, and other animals as they use the frozen water as a route to move from one location to another.

Addison Creek is actually part of a much larger network of waterways. The creek originates in Bensenville, Illinois and flows southeast until it reaches Salt Creek in North Riverside. A little farther downstream, Salt Creek joins the Desplaines River which then later meets up with the Kankakee River near Channahon, Illinois. There they join and become the Illinois River which winds its way southwest past Starved Rock, and then being joined by other rivers along the way heads on to the Mississippi River. The Mississippi flows south and eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico. All along the way, individuals, communities and wildlife use these waterways for homes, recreation and sustenance. In the winter, American Bald Eagles can often be seen fishing along the dam at Starved Rock State Park. The trash and pollutants in our area that find their way into Addison Creek can have an impact on the water routes much farther downstream.

For the past couple of years during our annual Spring Salt Creek cleanup, we have sent small groups of volunteers to the Addison Creek area to help clean up some of the accumulated trash. We have begun to make a dent, but there is definitely more work to be done. If anyone would like to help with our Addison Creek / Salt Creek cleanup efforts, watch our website for the announcement of our next cleanup date.

We hope the new signs will help discourage future dumping of trash along the creek. Any contributions to help us offset the cost of the new signs would be welcomed and greatly appreciated. Any donations are tax deductible.

Written by Mark Peterson

Watershed Trivia

Did you know that the Mississippi River Watershed encompasses 1,245,000 square miles? The Salt Creek watershed makes up 154 square miles of that total. The Salt Creek watershed is part of the Mississippi watershed. Rain gardens and other native plant areas pull more water into the soil helping reduce downstream flooding.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Over 30 Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH's) have been classified as “priority pollutants” by the EPA, 7 of which are known to cause cancer. Prenatal exposure to PAH's has also been associated with birth defects, asthma, low IQ, and behavioral problems. PAH's are chemicals that contain multiple rings of carbon atoms, usually 6 atoms per ring. The simplest of these compounds, which contains only two of these “benzene rings”, naphthalene, has been used in mothballs, and has been shown to cause cancer in animals.

The largest source of PAH's in the environment appears to be due to the sealcoating of parking lots and driveways with sealants containing coal tar which contains about 30% PAH compounds. The rainwater runoff from these parking lots drain into storm sewers, and then directly into local streams or rivers, is toxic to marine organisms in streams and lakes, especially aquatic invertebrates that live in the mud and are the beginning of the food chain for many fish.

When coal is heated to produce coke for making steel, the vapors that are driven off are condensed to produce many valuable chemicals. The leftover “gunk” that remains is coal tar. It is somewhat similar to the residue from oil refining, which is called asphalt and is used in paving highways and parking lots. Asphalt also contains some PAH's, but at very much lower concentrations than coal tar. Asphalt based sealcoating for parking lots is produced and is used mostly west of the Rocky Mountains, whereas coal tar based sealcoating is mostly used east of the continental divide.

Run-off containing PAH’s washes into sewers, eventually polluting our streams, and it contaminates the soil surrounding parking lots and roadways. Also, bits can be carried into homes on the soles of shoes and as resurfaced areas deteriorate, particles containing PAH’s can become airborne, settling in the dust of area homes.

Two major studies, the first in Austin, Texas, showed a link between coal tar sealants and PAH’s in streams and the atmosphere, and a second study at the University of New Hampshire confirmed those results. In Lake of the Hills, a suburb of Chicago, the PAH concentration increased by a factor of 10 during 10 years of urbanization. The levels of PAH's in household dust was measured in houses and apartments, some of which were adjacent to parking lots that had been coated with coal tar products, while others were not. The levels were 25 times higher inside the residences adjacent to the coal tar coated lots than those adjacent to parking lots that were not coated with coal tar products. Much more information is available from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

While the EPA has not taken action, some cities and counties have placed restrictions or even banned the use of coal tar sealants. Austin, Texas, has been a pioneer in this area. They banned the use of coal tar sealants in 2006, after conducting many experimental studies in conjunction with the USGS. They measured the runoff from parking lots, concentrations in streams and lakes, and set up aquaria for testing the effects of PAH's. Coal tar sealants have also been banned in Washington, D. C., in Dane County Wisconsin, and in several Minneapolis suburbs. The success of such bans to lower PAHs concentrations in receiving stream sediments remains to be determined.

Thank you to Earl Gose, an involved SCWN member, who researched and contributed this article

Close to home Canoeing

Everyone likes to travel to far away destinations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana or Missouri and visit a river or stream to float down with their favorite canoe or kayak. But you can’t do that every time you have the urge and why should you. Salt creek is just one of the many alternatives that you have if you live in the Chicago land area, especially the western suburbs, north and south.

Every year, access to the creek gets easier with landings being installed along its banks. I paddle the southern section, from below the dam at Graue mill in Hinsdale to the confluence with the Des Plaines river in Lyons. After it passes under highway 294 the creek flows through a good deal of Cook county forest preserve. It is void of houses with just the occasional bridge. The only people you see are either other boaters or bicyclists that ride along the creek on the designated bike trail. With a little scouting, you can find the egress points and plan your trip.

Besides Graue mill below the dam, you can enter the creek at the Dean property in Oak Brook or Bemis woods north. Travel down stream and exit at the 26th Street West forest preserve, Forest Avenue in Brookfield or the end of the road at First Ave. and the Des Plaines river.

Plan on taking a few items with you on your trip. There are no places to stop along the way for necessities like water or snacks. Take them with you, water and a few items like dried fruit, granola bars, light sandwiches can really enhance your time on the water. But don’t forget a garbage bag for your trash and any refuse that you may find along the way. There is always something to pick up and it will make you feel better when the trip is over and you have collected a full bag of refuse from garbage that washed into the creek and got caught up in the downed log jams along the shore.

The creek can be beautiful, full of wildlife and sometimes some tricky, narrow log jams to navigate. Just below the access below the dam at Graue mill there is a rock riffle neck down that you need to pay attention to. It is easy to navigate, just pay attention and stay river left. Aside from sweepers and dead falls that try to grab your craft the only other man made problem for boaters is a spill way across the entire creek below the bridge at 31st street. The spillway is breeched and you can float through, just stay river right at this spot. Neither of these areas are in deep water but who wants to dump and spoil a nice day. Along the rest of the creek you should pay attention when going under bridges, some get clogged with woody debris. They can also be shallow and rocky, slow down, and check out the fastest, deepest water to drift through. With children in the boat, and anyone else that doesn’t feel comfortable, make sure life preservers are being worn. It’s a state law to have them in the boat and a good idea to wear them. There is no shame in wearing the best piece of safety equipment that you can carry with you.

Speaking of safety, there are plenty of places to check flow rates on the stream, right from your home, a link can be found for the USGS stream monitors on this page in the right side column. Before you go, check flow rates. The creek can get fast and muddy quickly, it starts above Busse lake woods and flows through many suburbs gathering runoff from all of the roads and parking lots along the way. If you don’t feel comfortable floating on that day, don’t. There are plenty of things to do and your day should not be ruined because mother nature doesn’t cooperate. Brookfield zoo is right down the road. Remember the creek has a bike trail along its entire route. Keep your options open but don’t stay home. Get out and enjoy.

Written by Stan Zarnowiecki, SCWN director and avid canoeist


Spring is coming, are we ready?

Melting snow and spring rain usually means high water levels in the Salt Creek, and possibly some flooding. But there are other problems - pollutants washing into the creek. We don't think about it when we're driving and walking and otherwise dealing with the spring storms, but that rain water is going down the storm drains, and it's taking everything with it. Everything. Road salt. Dead leaves. Lawn chemicals. Spilled gasoline. Leaked oil. Tossed garbage.

At the beginning of every storm all the pollutants that have been accumulating since the last rain are washed down the storm sewers and into the creek. And that first flush of storm water can be deadly to the fish that live in the creek. Fish die offs are not uncommon in our urban streams following a storm event.

Photos by Christine Oszak of SCWN

Photos by Christine Oszak of SCWN