Individuals Can Make A Difference
By Jim Jozwiak
As stream fishermen, we usually get a first hand (down and dirty) look at our river environment. As opposed to driving by or over the water as most people do we're actually standing in it.
This last year I had the opportunity to be involved in helping stop 2 different pollution events on the West Branch of the Du Page River. The first was in the spring when a new housing development was being built next to a stretch I fish. As I waded upstream, I noticed a huge pump shooting a high volume of water out of a retention pond and into the river. This pond had been built for the development. We had some heavy rains and the pond was full of red clay, so the developer decided to empty the pond into the river. I got on the phone to the IEPA and the woman who is in charge of this area couldn't have been more professional. She said she may be able to get out there that day and check it out. Sure enough a few hours later as I'm driving by she's there with the developer and she's putting it on him. I run over and introduce myself and she continues to tell him what's up and he plays innocent, saying he didn't know it was wrong. She made him take out the pump, install a berm to protect the river from any runoff and bring in hay bales. She also asked me to keep an eye on the development for any more violations.
The second incident occurred at almost the exact stretch and happened later that summer. As I fished one evening a very strong smell of diesel fuel came from the river. On the water you could see a light slick working its way downstream. As I worked upstream looking for the source, it got too dark to continue. I assumed someone had spilled some fuel and it would be gone in a day or so. Well a week later I get to the river and it's still coming! There is a gas station on this particular corner and I went inside to check out the situation. The guy said the Fire Department had already been called BY ANOTHER FISHERMAN. To make a long story short, everyone got involved. The Forest Preserve, the IEPA, the Fire Dept., the Park District, and the oil company. After a month of drilling and testing paid for by the oil company, the conclusion was an old oil drum leaked diesel oil underground and the fuel leaked through the ground and into the river. It was great to see everyone involved act in a professional and judicious manner. I was proud to see another river angler step up and press the issue because I feel I dropped the ball by not acting sooner.
The end result is that we have a cleaner river and fishermen were involved in helping to bring to light two polluting events. Even as individuals we CAN make a difference...