Rock River 10th Most Polluted in the U.S.

Rock River 10th Most Polluted in the U.S.

Report: Rock River 10th Most Polluted in the U.S.

The Rock River Times – – April 4, 2012

For the year 2010, according to an Environment America report released March 22, the Rock River ranks as the 10th most polluted river in the country, up from 12th in a 2008 report.

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2010 “Toxics Release Inventory: (TRI) was used to compile Environment America’s rankings.

Not all of Wisconsin and Illinois need to totally despair; this literally flows as a good / bad news story.

Bad news: 3,370,392 pounds of toxic discharges dumped in Rock River. Good news: one beef processing plant near the mouth of the river is asserted to make all but 80,602 pounds of the total, only 3 percent comes from up river.

Obviously, people at the mouth of the river are very concerned, particularly the Rock River Valley Association, located in Moline, Il., one of the Quad Cities. Doug Riel is a vice president with the Rock River Valley Association and serves as chairman of its Engineering Committee.

“The Rock River Valley Association is very concerned with the continued dterioration of the water quality of the Lower Rock River,” said Riel. “The latest report by Environment America has mved the Lower Rock from the 12th to the 10th most polluted river in the United States. Clearly, for those who live, fish and boat on the Rock River, this is significant. For years, the Rock River has been a neglected river at the state and federal level; hopefully, this report will bring attention to its plight.”

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., in Joslin, Ill., about 26 miles upriver from the Mississippi, is report by Environment America as being responsible for 97 percent, or 3,290,330 pounds, of the toxic discharges. Yet, Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson told the Quad Cities Dispatch that the company was compliant with the Clean Water Act, returning permitte water to the river, and the EPA data states it is “not sufficient to calculate risk to either humans or the environment.”

Shelley Vinyard, Clean Water advocate with Environment America, told the Rock River Times; “We analyzed the TRI data that is self-reported by the industries to the EPA. We didn’t look at if people were in compliance with their permits or not. The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972 with the goal of cleaning up our waters by 1985. This pollution is linked to cancer and developmental disabilities. Our waterways are overloaded with pollution.”

Vinyard said she would gather more specifics about the data from the Rock River and forward it to The Rock River Times.


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Rock River 2nd Most Polluted in IL

Rock River 2nd Most Polluted in IL

Rock is State’s Second Most Polluted River

Rockford Register Star Newspaper Online – – October 21, 2009

The Rock River is the dumping ground for more toxic chemicals from industry than all bu one river in the state, but the main source of its pollution come nearly 100 miles downriver from here. According to a new report from Environment Illinois released today, about 3 million pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the Rock River in 2007. The biggest source of the pollution is Tyson Fresh Meats in Hillsdale, just outside the Quad Cities. It released all but 918 pounds of the Rock River’s pollution from Illinois, according to the report.

Upstream from Rockford, the biggest polluters are the Alto Dairy Cooperative in Waupun, Wis. The facility released about 690,000 pounds of pollution into the river in 2007.

Max Muller, program director for Environment Illinois, said the data show companies use Illinois’ waterways as trash cans for their toxic chemicals. “there are common-sense steps that should be taken to turn the tide against toxic pollution of our waters,” said Muller. “Wee need clean water now, and we need the state and federal governments to act to protect our health and out environment.”

The group is advocating three measures to improve Illinois waterways: the reduction of industrial discharge into waterways by switching from hazardous chemicals to safer alternatives; tougher permitting limits and enforcement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and adoption of the Clean Water Act to all waterways, including headwaters and small streams, which fall into a gray area of enforcement.

Although the Rock has high levels of chemical discharge, the waterways through the Rockford region are relatively clean, said Chuck Cowley, water pollution regional manager for the Illinois EPA. “It’s important information for people to know, but it’s certainly not an indication that there’s some sort of hazard,” he said. “the Rock River, Kishwaukee River and its tributaries support a very good fish population. That would not necessary follow if there’s something wrong with the Rock River. Just like any water body, there’s always room for improvement.”

Environment Illinois’ report uses data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory, which requires industrial facilities to release information about their discharges of a specific set of toxic chemicals. In 2007, the year examined in the Environment Illinois report, those facilities reported the release of 244 toxic chemicals or classes of pollution into American waterways, totaling 232 million pounds. Five Winnebago County companies reported toxic discharges into the Rock River, collectively accounting for 802 pounds of discharge. The largest source of pollution was the now-defunct Sonoco Products in Rockton, which released 750 pounds of nitrate compounds and about 8.75 pounds of lead.

The EPA does not require some polluters, including waste water-treatment plants and some agriculture facilities, to report their findings to the Toxic Release Inventory. Also, the data do not include all chemical discharges, just those from a specific set of chemicals.


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Researchers Ask Why Bladder Cancer Rates are Higher Here

Researchers Ask Why Bladder Cancer Rates are Higher Here

Featured Image provided by the UCSF Department of Urology.

Rockford Register Star

June 4, 1989

Researchers Ask Why Bladder Cancer Higher Here

Residents of Northern Illinois appear to be more susceptible to bladder cancer than other people in the nation, and researchers with the Illinois Cancer Council want to know why.

Possible reasons are:

  • Industrial solvents contaminating water supplies.
  • An aging population in Rockford. Bladder cancer is most prevalent in populations over 65.
  • Employee expsure to industrial solvents at work.

Katherine Mallin, an epidemiologist for the Illinois Cancer Council in Chicago, and researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford are trying to discover which of those, if any, is responsible for the high than average rate of bladder cancer.

“We don’t want people to be alarmed and to think they have an epidemic of bladder cancer.” cautioned Mallin, principal investigator for the project. “It isn’t that much higher,” she said. “But just because it isn’t high doesn’t mean you don’t want to investigate. There are different patterns of data that are important to explore and times when additional studies should be done.”

In Illinois, about 27 of every 100,000 men got bladder cancer in the years 1985-87, the latest years compiled by the Illinois Department of Public Health. In Winnebago County, about 32 of every 100,000 men got bladder cancer. In Boone County the rate was 34.7 per 100,000 and, in Ogle County was 29.9.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the national incident rate in 1985 was 16.5 per 100,000 (28.5 in males and 7.8 in females.) A report compiled from data gathered between 1970 and 1979 showed only slight increases, Mallin said, and the occurrence of the disorder has dropped regionally since the 1950’s.

Joel Cowen, president of Human Services Consultants, a Rockford medical consulting firm, said he could see no cause for alrm concerning bladder cancer locally. “But it would be interesting to see if elements in the environment are contributing to the cause.”, he said. The study includes interviews with about 300 bladder cancer victims or their families. The major contributors to bladder cancer are believed to be smoking and exposure to compounds called aromatic amines, Mallin said.

The compounds, which include benzidine and 2-napthylamine, are often used as industrial solvents. “Aeromatic amines used in industry are known to be associated with bladder cancer.” Mallin said, “But some of them are not used anymore and there are other supsected risk factors.” Mallin did not know if contamination of Rockford groundwater with industrial solvents was a factor. EPA tests have shown elevated levels of industrial solvents in some Rockford groundwater and the city has closed two wells bacause of it.

“I don’t know that the water is involved.” Mallin said. “We’re looking at a lot of different factors. I don’t know what the risk factors are in Winnebago County; that’s why we’re doing the study.”

Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in males and the tenth most common in females. It will cause an estimated 10,200 deaths in 1989, according to the National Cancer Institute. The study which begain in January, should be completed by the end of the summer, Mallin said. “We are nterviewing now and hope to finish interviews in July, then do an analysis.” said Mallin. “Basically, in general, we’re looking at risk factors.” According to Jim Walker of the Illinois Department of Public Health, 11 Winnebago County residents died from bladder cancer in 1987, while 466 deaths from the disease were recorded in Illinois that year.


UPDATE – 6/15/2017

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health website; from 1986-2014:

56,171 incidents of Bladder Cancer in Males statewide

20,267 incidents of Bladder Cancer in Females statewide

Cases of reported Bladder Cancer – National Cancer Institute (from the article); from 2010-2014:

(1) Cook County (Chicago): 1,043 

(2) Dupage County (Wheaton): 221 

(3) Lake County (Waukegan): 160

(4) Kane County (Geneva) : 105

(5) Winnebago County (Rockford): 73

(6) McHenry County (Woodstock): 66

(7) Dekalb County (Sycamore): 21

(8) Whiteside County (Morrison): 20

(9) Ogle County (Oregon): 14

(10) Boone County (Belvidere): 12

(11) Lee County (Dixon) : 10

(12) Stephenson County (Freeport): 10

(13) Carroll County (Mt. Carroll): 7

(14) Jo Davies County (Galena): 6

That’s a total of 239 cases just in our immediate area between Winnebago and Jo Davies Counties in 4 years. Please note that the top 4 Counties are in the greater Chicagoland area. These counties have a much higher population than our area in the Rock River Valley. We have included all of the counties in Northern Illinois to show the comparison of cases per capita.


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EWG Water Quality in All 50 States

EWG Water Quality in All 50 States

July 31st, 2017 and August 25th, 2017 respectively; 97 WZOK and Q98.5 radio stations posted articles (blog posts) regarding dangerous chemicals that are in our public water supply. The articles contained information obtained by the EWG (Envrionmental Working Group). The reports listed on the EWG website are a matter of public record and contain valuable information about the true quality of our public drinking water. The EWG website even has a Water Database where you can input your zip code and see a list of the toxins found in public water systems in your area. The EWG collected datea from state agencies and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for drinking water tests conducted from 2010 to 2015 by 48,712 water utilites in 50 states. All told, the utilites, which had the opportunity to review the data for accuracy, tested for
500 different contaminants and found 267.

One of the points made by the EWG on their website, is that the levels of contaminants found, in many cases, are within acceptable parameters consistent with EPA guidelines however, they are concerned about what can happen to citizens over time. While some of the levels of contaminants may be acceptable for healthy adults; those levels could cause developmental issues in children, serious health issues including miscarriage in women who are pregnant, problems for women who are nursing and serious health issues in the elderly and people that already have current health

Here in Machesney Park the following contaminants detected above health guidelines are: 1,4-Dioxane, Arsenic,
Bromodichloromethane, Chloroform, Radiological contaminants, Trichloroacetic acid and Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) all of which have been shown to cause cancer. Many of the contaminants of concern are not regulated by EPA guidelines.

If you would like more information or would like to see the results of your local public water authority in this study, you may follow the link below. You can also read the articles from our local radio stations for more information as well.

EWG’s Tap Water Database:


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Digging Deeper With WREX

Digging Deeper With WREX

Obtained From:
13 Eyewitness News Online Report | Kristin Crowley |May 23, 2017


Rockford Superfund Area

Rockford, 1981: Residents who live on a small piece of land along the southeast side of the city have no idea their drinking water is contaminated.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are found in hundreds of municipal and private wells across the area. It would end up taking nine years of surveys and studies before the federal government would step in and switch nearly 550 homes over to clean water from the City of Rockford.

But after years of ingesting toxic chemicals, the health of more than 1,000 people became the government’s primary concern. So in the early 1990s, residents who were exposed to one of the toxic chemicals, trichloroethylene (TCE), were added to a national registry to help track the potential health impacts of the contaminated water.

The study was scheduled to last 20 years, but it was never finished. It stopped less than two years short of its completion in 2010.

And the results from the first 18 years? They have never been released.

Today, the fight for that information continues.

“You know we lived here and drank the water. Can’t they tell us what effects it had on our health?” Dawn Fisher

On the surface, Marshall Street looks like any other Rockford neighborhood. But it is what’s under the surface that holds the real story. For 27 years, Dawn Fisher lived in what is now known as Rockford’s Southeast Superfund Site.

The contaminated area is a 7.5 square mile chunk of land – north of Sandy Hollow, south of Broadway, just west of Mulford Road and east of the Rock River.

Rockford Superfund Area

Rockford Superfund Image From WREX 13.


It was here where hundreds of wells were polluted with toxic chemicals after years of industrial dumping. That means for more than a decade Dawn, her husband and her children drank contaminated water.


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Rockford’s Superfund Site

Rockford’s Superfund Site

Rockford’s Super Fund Site

Between 1981 and 1988, water and soil samples were taken by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency when they Began receiving complaints about odor, taste and color to local private and municipal water wells. The results of those tests Caused the IEPA to label this 7.5 square mile area a Superfund Site.

What is a Superfund Site?

A Superfund Site is by definition: “any land in the US That has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a Risk to human health and/or the environment. These sites are placed on the National Priorities List for cleanup.” In an effort to make sure that residents had access to safe drinking water, the US EPA provided those homes with bottled water Until the 547 homes could be hooked up to municipal water services. The IEPA then began the process of studying and formulating a plan for cleanup of three sites in particular in 1991.

Compliance Reviews

The IEPA must review this superfund site every five years in order to be in compliance with cleanup protocols. As for now, they are simply monitoring those homes that are still in need of hooking them up to municipal systems. During 2014, EPA Contractors drilled 48 deep borings along side streets. Soil vapor samples were collected to find out if they pose a possible Risk to residents. The results will be accumulated and put into a technical paper to discuss these issues.

When will it be over?

In 2013 the EPA completed its review of the areas where cleanup had been completed but hazardous waste remains managed on site. These reviews are done to ensure the cleanup continues to protect the public and environment. However, it is important to again note, that not ALL of this area has been addressed. While there are few if any residents who are still using private wells, there are still hazardous waste materials in and around residences. The next review is scheduled for some time in 2018 and no plan has yet been released that cumulatively cleans up this residential area in Southeast Rockford. It has been 36 years since the problem was first reported and as of today, there is still no formal plan of action to clean up this site.


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