- Associated Press - Sunday, August 30, 2015

SHOREWOOD, Ill. (AP) - John Orbon’s children were dazzled by the sight of crayfish, fingernail clams and suckerfish - all pulled from the DuPage River in Shorewood.

His children watched as members of the Lower DuPage River Watershed Coalition and Midwest Biodiversity Institute gathered them to study their physical characteristics. The bugs and fishes living in the DuPage River serve as the “thermometer” of the water quality.

Orbon, of Orland Park, came to the river sampling event because he wanted his children to explore the river system and learn more about the lifeforms that live in it.

“We live in the suburbs. There’s only so much you can do, and I wanted to take the kids outside more,” he said.

Nonprofit organizations The Conservation Foundation and the Lower DuPage River Watershed Coalition teamed up to give people such as Orbon a deep dive into monitoring water quality in the river and the importance of keeping it clean. Experts with those organizations said a river can have the best water quality but maintaining a healthy and diverse habitat for life is important.

“We try to look at things more comprehensively. It’s the whole system,” said Tara Neff, The Conservation Foundation water resource assistant.

Jennifer Hammer, a member with both the foundation and watershed coalition, collected mussels, clams and other animals for audiences to examine at a tent near the river. She said watershed coalition staff study not only the fish and bugs, but also the chemistry and habitat of the river.

“All that information helps us learn a little bit more about the river: what the problems are in the river and what kind of things we can do. It helps guide activities as far as restoration projects. so we can make strides to improve water and habitat,” Hammer said.

In one example, she said blood worms and leeches can survive with little oxygen. If many of those insects are found in the water but not others - such as dragonflies - that need more oxygen, then the water quality is not good, she said.

Two staff members with Midwest Biodiversity Institute rode a boat on the DuPage River, capturing fish such as catfish, suckerfish and redhorse sucker, the latter of which the staff members said was a good indicator of water quality. They studied, weighed and then released them.

People - especially young people - need to become more aware of how to keep streams clean and protect the environment, said Ernie Lopez, a former federal Environmental Protection Agency environmental engineer and watershed coalition volunteer.

He said the watershed coalition hopes to meet with homeowner associations and talk with them about adopting practices to keep the watershed clean.

Events like Thursday’s also raise more awareness of how protecting the DuPage River protects other connecting rivers such as the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. He hopes more people become involved with the watershed coalition and other environmental groups.

“I think the environment supersedes all the issues we’re talking about here. Without it there would be nothing alive here,” Lopez said.


Source: The (Joliet) Daily Herald, https://bit.ly/1TY0eCP


Information from: The Herald-News, https://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews

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