Report says U.S. firms violate Clean Water Act

URBANA – Congress passed the Clean Water Act 35 years ago this month, but its goal of eliminating pollution in lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands still hasn't been accomplished, according to a report released Thursday by Environment Illinois.

Facilities around the nation – including more than 46 percent of major facilities in Illinois – released more pollution in 2005 than allowed by the Clean Water Act, said LuCinda Hohmann, an Environment Illinois field organizer at a press conference Thursday in Urbana's Crystal Lake Park.

UI horse dies from West Nile Virus

CHAMPAIGN – In 2002, when crows everywhere died of West Nile Virus, horse owners learned a hard lesson – horses are very susceptible to the disease.

No University of Illinois horses died that year, but vaccination for West Nile became routine. So animal scientists were stunned in September when a new filly who recently had her booster went down in a field.

Parties closer to agreement on assessment

URBANA – Upper Salt Fork River farmers, other landowners and environmentalists moved a little closer to agreement Wednesday, but all said more movement is needed.

The Upper Salt Fork Drainage District is asking a court to increase its authority for annual tax assessment, from $1 to $5 per acre.

Dry summer doesn't hinder wetlands

HOMER LAKE – Right now, the wetlands at this forest preserve aren't all that wet, after one of the driest summers in recent years.

But there are signs that Homer Lake Wetland, in its first year at the preserve south of St. Joseph, is changing.

UI Vermilion Couinty Extension office director to retire

DANVILLE – After 10 years as director of the University of Illinois Vermilion County Extension office, Michelle Pride will retire at the end of this month.

"It's the people I will miss the most," said Pride, whose last day will be Oct. 1.

Harvest early after hot, dry summer

TOLONO – With the landmark Labor Day weekend behind them, many Illinois farmers jumped on their waiting combines and headed into fields to see what the harvest has in store.

The corn crop has matured about two weeks earlier than usual, thanks to good spring weather and a hot, dry summer, and it's expected to be a bin buster, thanks to hybrids that performed well and rare but timely rains.

140 from Argentina visit man's farm near Pesotum

PESOTUM – Eric Rund flew Argentina's flag at his rural Pesotum farm recently to welcome visitors to Illinois and a real South American asado.

After the traditional cookout, Rund's 140 Argentinian visitors inspected his fields, played soccer, napped under his tractors and talked about 2008 crops going into the ground back home.

Bement officials still searching for rail siding solution

BEMENT – When Topflight Grain was pursuing village approval for a new railroad siding on Bement's southwest side, it was already on Plan B.

The original plan was to build the rail siding straight east, parallel to existing Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, said Scott Docherty, the general manager of Topflight Grain. The siding is required by the railroad because it allows the Bement-based co-op to control grain cars it's filling. This prevents other trains on the track from having to stop and wait behind grain cars that are being filled.

Committee begins to forecast effects of water usage

RANTOUL – For those who are concerned about all the water used to create ethanol from corn, a consultant said Monday, consider how much more water might be used to make even more corn for ethanol.

Jack Wittman is the president of Wittman Hydro Planning Associates of Bloomington, Ind., the consultant firm hired by the East Central Illinois Regional Water Supply Planning Committee to work up supply projections for the area. The planners and residents of Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties met at the Rantoul Public Library on Monday afternoon.

Piatt County Board clears way for corn-processing plant

MONTICELLO – A group of Sangamon Township homeowners in Piatt County say they will not stop protesting plans for the Clarkson Grain/El Milagro corn-processing plant at White Heath.

The Piatt County Board granted a special-use permit to Clarkson Grain on Tuesday that greenlights the $20 million plant.