Keeping the Region healthy: Local corporation and environmental advocate team up

Keeping the Region healthy: Local corporation and environmental advocate team up

Once a fight between industrial Goliaths and Save the Earth “tree huggers” is now an alliance in Northwest Indiana.

“A big part of the story of environmental changes is that more and more corporations and businesses are recognizing how important it is that they change the way they do business and are working to greatly reduce the release of pollutants,” said Lee Botts, Northwest Indiana environmental activist and has worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Great Lakes Basin Commission and is the founder of the Indiana Dunes Environmental Center as well as a long time member of the Save the Dunes Council. “Instead of the fights between environmentalists of years ago, there are lots of partnerships and relationships.”

Kay Nelson, director of environmental affairs for the Northwest Indiana Forum, has a long list of alliances which are making the Region a healthier, cleaner place to live.

“U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal have household hazardous waste collections days providing employees the opportunity to dispose of hazardous waste,” said Nelson. “ARCO in Burns Harbor is using some of the natural area inside their grounds as a walking path and are huge advocates of the heart association. NiSource is allowing some of their property to be used for walking paths and Dan Plath, Water Program Leader for the Environmental Department of NiSource, is president and founder of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association (NWIPA). And, of course that means we can paddle now because our municipalities have cleaned up waterways of the Grand and Little Calumet.”

It is quite a change considering that in the early 1980s when the EPA designated the Grand Calumet as one of the most polluted waterways in the country with all 14 beneficial uses considered impaired. Just two years ago the river’s West Branch, including Roxanna Marsh, clean-up was completed. Currently other sections of the river are in the process of being restored.

“It’s important to understand that the people working in these industries live here too, and they also want a high quality of life,” said Nelson.

Nelson said Northwest Indiana is in compliance with the current Clean Air Act standards set by the EPA.

“It’s something we should be very proud of—it took a lot of work to obtain those standards,” Nelson said.

To continue our rising air and water quality requires an effort by everyone, said Kathy Luther, Director of Environmental Programs at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC).

“Use water wisely,” she said. “Treat it likes it's precious.”

Luther points out how simple solutions can have powerful results. Rain barrels collect water where it lands so it can later be used for watering gardens when needed. Rain gardens improve water quality by forcing storm waters into the ground, preventing them from taking pollutants such as fertilizers and pesticides and washing them into local waterways through storm sewer systems.

Although, we’ve come a long way but there’s still much more to do.

High levels of ozone and particle pollution seriously impact both young children whose lungs are still developing and adults, reducing lung function and making it more difficult to breathe normally especially while exercising as well as causing inflammation and damage to the cells lining the lungs. All this means our lungs become much more susceptible to infection, aggravating asthma and other chronic lung diseases.

“Sinusitis is one of the most common infections affecting one out of seven people,” said Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, an Otolaryngology/ENT at CarePointe Ear, Nose, Throat & Sinus Centers. “Sinuses are lined with tiny cells that act like sweeper cells. Industrial chemicals, smoke, second hand smoke and pollutants paralyze these cells, mucous builds and becomes infected. If you live near a plant and business with emissions, it’s more common to get sinusitis.”

An easy simple solution said Churukuri is buying over-the-counter salt water spray.

“It’s a bio-mechanical force and helps get all the pollutants,” he said, noting that for chronic sinusitis they offer balloon sinuplasty, an in-office minimally-invasive sinus treatments. “When you’re driving in the air, keep your windows up and put the air on recirculation. At home change filters and use higher level air filters.”

Lorrie and Carl Lisek, owners of Legacy Environmental Services located in the Purdue Research Park in Crown Point, partners with such companies and organizations as NIPSCO on initiatives like the NIPSCO IN-Charge Electric Vehicle Incentive Program designed for those who own or are considering purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle (EV) by offering charging incentives and was designed to increase the use of EVs by reducing the costs and complexity associated with charging.

Legacy is also partnering with the planning comission to implement U.S. Department of Energy Sun Shot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge in Northwest Indiana—a collaborative national effort created to aggressively drive innovation in making solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade.

Carl Lisek also hosts The Green Commuter, a radio show which airs once every two weeks on Lakeshore Public Media, 89.1 FM. Future shows include representatives from Gas Technologies Inc. (GTI) who will be discussing the work being done through the Lake Michigan Consortium, which consists of Wisconsin Clean Cities, Chicago Area Clean Cities, South Shore Clean Cities, and Congressman Pete Visclosky.

“We’ve done some pretty cool things as a region,” said Lisek, “and there’s a lot we’re working on to continue improving the environment here.”

11 hours ago

How to live green everyday

Earth Day is a good time to reflect on how to help the environment, but what makes more of a difference is make small changes in daily routines. Here are some that you can try today.

Save Energy at Home

Heating & cooling: Keep return air ducts clean. Dust and lint can keep a room from receiving sufficient heating/cooling.

Appliances & devices: Run your dishwasher through the wash and rinse cycles but turn it off at the drying cycle. Open the door to allow the dishes to air dry.

Cooking: If there is an exhaust fan over the range, use it! Cooking odors will be eliminated and so will heated air, reducing air conditioner’s cooling load.

Source: NIPSCO,

Live Green

Drive less: Walk, bike and carpool more

Eat greener: Eating lower on the food chain uses less energy and is better for the planet

Paperless: Save trees by reducing junk mail, choosing to go paperless with bank statements and bills, and use paper with 100 percent post consumer waste content

Recycle electronics: Any kind of computer disks, video tapes, batteries and use less hazardous rechargeable Nicke;-Metal Hydride batteries

Reuse whenever possible: drink more water and use reusable mugs, bottles and dining-ware

Recycle everything else: Recycle aluminum, glass and plastic products as well as newspaper and mixed paper

Source: Conservation International,

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Change out the most frequently used lights in your home with ENERGY STAR qualified products to help the environment and save on energy bills.

Look for ENERGY STAR label on more than 60 kinds of products like appliances, lighting, electronics and office equipment to reduce greenhouse gases and save on bills.

Heat and cool smartly by changing air filters regularly, properly using a programmable thermostat and having heating and cooling equipment maintained annually by a licensed contractor.

Use caulk, weather stripping and insulation to seal your home’s envelope to block out heat and cold.

Use water efficiently: Don’t let the water run while shaving or brushing your teeth, repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away, run dishwashers on a full load and irrigate landscaping during the coolest part of the day.

Calculate your home’s carbon footprint on the EPA’s site:

Spread the word: Tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and for the environment because it lowers greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,

-Compiled by Tara McElmurry

11 hours ago

Innovative green technology learned and practiced at local universities

Innovative green technology learned and practiced at local universities

Sitting on top of an academic building at Purdue University Calumet is a vertical axis wind turbine that on a windy day, generates the same amount of energy in one hour that it takes to light a 50-watt light bulb for 20 hours.

Though the turbine does its job by generating energy, it fulfills a much greater purpose—enabling students to get hands on experience that will qualify them to develop and maintain the growing number of wind turbines across the country, Professor Dave Kozel said.

Institutions of higher education across Northwest Indiana are placing more emphasis on teaching students about global changes, their environmental foot prints and careers that are adapting to these ever changing needs.

Schools like Valparaiso University are leading the way in solar energy research through its James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility—research that’s conducted by faculty and undergraduates.

Just down the street at Ivy Tech Northwest, the campus features an energy lab, solar panels that assist students in learning about solar and wind, and a program that teaches students smart grid technology.

“We have three new smart grid trainers and we are using them on our Electric Line training program,” said Michael Jones, program chair for the school’s energy technology program. “With these three trainers, we can take power from the plant of wind fields and route it through the customer. With this in mind, we can teach students of variable electric rates and how they can reduce power consumption on the grid.”

For Erin Argyilan, associate professor in the Geosciences Department at Indiana University Northwest, working with students and teaching them green practices helps push for changes on their own campuses as well.

Through her Global and Environmental Change course, students focus on building a carbon budget – measuring the carbon footprint of students and staff that occurs through simple college operations. Their discoveries have prompted the university to make changes on campus, such as installing solar compactors and water bottle filling machines , and installing green space where a former university building once stood but was removed after flooding in 2008.

“Our students’ presentations have led to the creation of a sustainability committee on our campus, and that group has been working to implement more green practices,” Argyilan said.

The wind turbine at Purdue University Calumet is just one of several changes the university has made to promote green technology among staff and students. Like IUN, Purdue has installed water bottle fillers and water coolers, and have examined the school’s energy usage.

“We’ve gone through and looked at our lighting, looked at our air handling equipment and have made upgrades on those,” he said. “We retrofitted most of our lights to energy efficient lighting, and every time we get to do new construction, we always look to see what’s new with technology and is the most energy efficient.”

Universities aren’t the only ones taking the lead in educating the next generation of energy users, however. In addition to green initiatives for both customers and companies, NIPSCO has forged a relationship with Purdue University.

“In this region, we have a very strong partnership with NIPSCO to develop the smart grid lab, and they have invested over $100,000 in equipment and countless human resources to assist the program achieve its ultimate goal,” Jones said.

For Dan Waldrop, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 697, staying on top of technology as it emerges is essential to training electrical workers.

IBEW 697’s building itself serves as a teaching tool. The Mississippi Street building in Merrillville incorporates high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and makes use of LED technology and daylight harvesting.

The sustainable building houses the state-of-the-art apprenticeship school designed for the continued expansion of future energy technologies, Waldrop said.

“We’re also working on the woods behind the building, eradicating invasive species,” he said. “That is a philosophy we built for us that encourages us to be stewards of the environment.”

12 hours ago Photos


LAST LOOK: Stairway at Sunset in Union Pier

LAST LOOK: Stairway at Sunset in Union Pier

Photographer Joshua Nowicki frequently shoots Lake Michigan shores at various locations and seasons throughout the year. This photo was taken from a series of photos during March and April 2013.

To see more of Josh's work from last Spring, If you would like to submit photos for consideration, please send links, zipped files, or email a low-res version to

February 23, 2014 2:11 pm Photos


Lake Michigan: Fair-Weather Friend, Interrupted

Lake Michigan: Fair-Weather Friend, Interrupted

If you’ve lived Chicago, Northwest Indiana or Southwest Michigan for more than a year, you’ve probably learned about the benefits and detriments of having one of the world’s largest lakes for a neighbor. And just like any neighbor, you must take the good with the bad.

Especially within the circumference of its shores, Lake Michigan impacts weather year-round. How much of an impact?

“I’d say it has a tremendous impact,” says Ed Fenelon, the Meteorologist In Charge at the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Office in Romeoville, Illinois. “You have a general effect on temperatures near the lake, and the lake breeze boundary. In the case of a more extreme weather event, you can see blinding lake effect snow in the form of a single-banded event running down the entire length of the lake, stretching from as far north as the Manitou Islands all the way down to Northwest Indiana.”

Fenelon would know. He’s spent more than two decades forecasting weather around the Great Lakes. He explains that forecasting weather is complicated, and the lake adds yet another variable to the complex array of factors at work.

With the help of advanced atmospheric modeling software, Fenelon and his team of meteorologists are able to tackle the complicated challenge of predicting the weather along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Ben Deubelbeiss is a meteorologist, and a 3-year member of Fenelon’s team in Romeoville.

Deubelbeiss elaborates on Fenelon’s premise that the Lake is the dominating factor in the weather here. “In the spring, the air is warming up, but the water in the lake is still cold. The cold water cools the air above it.” This causes an atmospheric boundary to form along the shoreline where the warm air and cold air meet. But the cold, dense, high-pressure air is able to push that boundary inland by displacing the warm, less dense, low-pressure air to higher elevations. This inland movement of cooler air from the lake is called a lake breeze.

“We can see temperatures drop 15 to 20 degrees due to a lake breeze,” says Deubelbeiss.

Of course, this isn’t the only effect that Lake Michigan has on spring weather. Clouds, precipitation, and thunderstorms tend to form where warm air and cold air meet. Fenelon describes the lake breeze boundary can stir up thunderstorms just inland from the shore, causing inconvenience and even damage (in more extreme cases) to the neighboring cities.

As summer turns to fall, Lake Michigan offers a different kind of weather event to lakeshore residents. By this time, the water in the lake has warmed after a summer of sunshine. As cooler air masses move in from the northwest, they create another imbalance in air temperature. But unlike the spring weather, the warm air is now found along the surface of the lake.

As the prevailing winds move a cold air mass across the lake, that warm air is drawn up into the atmosphere. And with it, moisture.

The damp air rises with the warm air and condenses in the atmosphere as it cools. If the temperature difference, humidity, and prevailing wind speeds allow for enough moisture to collect in the atmosphere as the air moves over the lake, the lake-effect clouds form as a result.

Those lake-effect clouds eventually meet the shoreline and head inland, causing another lake-effect weather event: lake-effect rain. The moisture, condensed in the form of clouds, now falls to the earth as watery precipitation. And as fall becomes winter, lake-effect rain becomes lake-effect snow.

There’s good news and bad news especially for Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan. The good news is that lake-effect rain and snow occur along downwind shore lines. Winds in the Midwest are generally from the west, making Michigan the typical downwind shoreline. The bad news is that winter winds do occasionally come from a more northerly direction. In these cases, the Indiana shore is downwind. But wait, there’s more.

Deubelbeiss notes that the amount of lake-effect snow is limited, to an extent, by the distance the colder air travels over the warmer water (this distance is called the “fetch”). Cold air with a shorter fetch will pick up less moisture, while cold air with a longer fetch will pick up more moisture.

So with a prolonged northerly wind, cold air is traveling all the way from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula down to the Indiana shoreline, picking up moisture as it goes. And when this accumulation of moisture reaches shore, it means tremendous snowfall in Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan.

Odds are good that if you live in this area, you’ve experienced a lake-effect storm. And you might have noticed an unusual quirk to them. Due to their nature, it is not unusual to see extremely isolated storms.

Fenelon describes this as one of the most intriguing aspects of lake-effect weather. If you happen to drive east along I-90 during the winter, you could leave Hammond with sunny skies, hit blizzard-like snowfall passing through Gary, and reach calm flurries by as you cross into Porter County.

Lake breezes and lake-effect storms can significantly disrupt air and ground transportation. This is why Fenelon explains that forecasting these events accurately is so important. “Strong lake breezes or lake-effect storms can impact how the airports in Chicago direct planes during takeoffs and landing approaches.” He also notes that the impact to drivers is significant as well, with lake-effect snow diminishing visibility on roadways and causing dangerous driving conditions.

“Lake-effect snow advisories and warnings are issued on a county basis,” says Fenelon. An advisory indicates inconvenience, while a warning indicates more serious danger. “Most people turn to local media outlets to find these warnings, but they can always be found on our website.” You can find up-to-date weather information for the area at

February 18, 2014 4:29 pm Photos


BLIZZARD BUSTING: Get outside and live wintertime!

BLIZZARD BUSTING: Get outside and live wintertime!

Snow crunches underfoot and every breath is a bite from the cold, crisp apple of air.

With so many ways to enjoy winter, this is no time to hibernate. Think snowy hills sparkling in the sun, moonlit cross country ski trails, the swish of thin blades on ice, tracing your own freestyle joy.

Winter’s on the cusp, a good time to investigate possibilities for snowy adventures in northwest Indiana, then find your favorite gloves and dashing scarves .

Ice skating and sledding

At Washington Park in Michigan City, the rink is lighted for night skating and there's a warming fire.

Lake County's Deep River Water Park offers a bigger venue – the Ice Plaza is 14,000 square feet, including food stands, warming areas, and (cough delicately here), heated bathrooms. It’s also the only ice rink in the area where you can rent skates.

"Ice skating here is very, very popular," says Sandy Basala, superintendent of Visitor Services at Lake County Parks & Recreation department.

Special coils under the concrete freeze water for the ice rink and skating opens the Friday after Thanksgiving. “We have a lot of families, Friday night is date night, and skating brings back a lot of memories for older people,” says Basala.

If you'd rather stay closer to the ground, sled the hill at Oak Ridge Prairie. For bigger thrills, take on Mt. Tom, the tallest dune in the state park in Porter County. There you’ll find shriek-worthy slopes for tobogganing and tubing. There are also two sledding hills right in the city of Portage.

Want the rush without the work? Join the picturesque scene at Buckley Homestead, where bobsled rides Saturday and Sunday afternoons between 1 and 3 p.m. in January and February are oh-so-nostalgic. Just $2 per person! Call ahead, though: The horses can’t pull in icy conditions and there must be a snow base.

If scenic views soothe your soul, seek out the indoor pavilion in Portage, where you can hustle over to the concession stand for hot soup and a fantastic view of the lake, says Jenny Orsburn, superintendent of the Portage Parks Department and manager of the Portage lakefront.

“Wintertime is really one of the most spectacular times to see Lake Michigan, because it’s a completely different world out there.”

Cross country skiing

If you’re all about getting the family moving and in shape, cross country skiing will do it. “It's very good aerobic exercise, a good activity for beginners and families,” says Basala. “You can scoot along at your own pace" on several miles of wooded and open trails designed for the experienced and for beginners, so if you're a newbie, not to worry. “You can be out on a brisk, beautiful, snow-covered day and not travel far.” After that, who can resist?

Check the Lake Count Parks web site for descriptions of each park, then click on the Pathfinder, a handy listing of activities in the parks from now to February.

Tim Morgan, superintendent of La Porte County Parks, describes cross country skiing in La Porte County's Red Mill, Bluhm, Luhr, and Creek Ridge parks:

"The La Porte County trails aren’t groomed, but there's an abundance of forest, so you have a true winter wonderland. After a new-fallen snow, all the trees are glistening; it's very picturesque, with a white blanket of snow over everything. It's just beautiful. There might be a rabbit scrunching in the snow, or birds rustling about, but it's real quiet and calm.”

Porter County’s Calumet Trail, with entrances along U.S. 12 at Mineral Springs Road and the Porter/LaPorte County Line, offers a 9.1-mile venue for cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Cross-country skiing is best along the interconnecting loops of the National Lakeshore Ly-co-ki-we Trail in Indiana Dunes State Park.

Wherever you go, there has to be at least a four-inch snow base. That’s not just one four-inch snowfall, explains Basala “Even with a heavy snowfall, if there’s just one, there’s no opportunity for the snow to build up, so skis will just go down to the ground.” She advises always calling ahead to check on the conditions of trails and slopes.


Since downhill skiing is more like downslope skiing in northern Indiana, consider snowshoeing. It isn't just for the cabin-living guy who sets out to snare his dinner. In Porter County, the Indiana Dunes are a fave spot for hiking, along with Calumet Trail and the wooded trails in La Porte County.

Families on a budget, this is for you: Snowshoeing can be a less expensive way to go for fun. The shoes are in universal sizes, so they can be shared, and you're done with rentals.

Ice Fishing

If you're a patient sort, ice fishing may be for you. Head for Three Rivers County Park in Lake Station, Ind., and, lest your plans fall through (yes, pun intended), call 219-962-7810 to verify ice fishing conditions. La Porte’s Pine Lake is dotted with huddled hopefuls once the ice is thick enough. Call (219) 325-8315 for conditions.

Want to enjoy nature without the wind chill? A favorite stopping place for Florida-bound Greater Sandhill Cranes is just 40 miles south of Michigan City on U.S. 421 in Medaryville, Ind. The peak of migration is early to mid-November, when as many as 30,000 cranes will rest at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area.

During daylight hours, you can see the cranes right from your car as they forage within a 10-mile radius along US 421 and Highway 143 at the approach to Jasper-Pulaski. On the eastern edge of one of the large fields Jasper-Pulaski maintains a large handicap-accessible viewing deck. Here, if conditions are right, groups of birds will take flight directly overhead, their long necks producing a trumpet-like sound. Just after sunrise, the birds’ trilling calls rise from the group as they begin their dance of bowing and jumping straight into the air. Experts call this autumn dance a bonding ceremony between lifelong mates.

For more information visit or call 219. 843.4841.

January 09, 2014 12:00 am Photos


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