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Drought Helping Provide Data For Fox River Pollution Study

The Fox River in Geneva, Ill. (CBS)

The Fox River in Geneva, Ill. (CBS)

Nancy Harty Nancy Harty
I was a fan of WBBM Newsradio 780 long before joining the staff as a...
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ALGONQUIN, Ill. (CBS) – The lack of rain this summer might be killing your garden, but it’s actually good news for people studying the health of the Fox River.

WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports the based Fox River Study Group has been analyzing water samples for the last decade in an effort to help address pollution of the river.

However, the group has not yet been able to take low-flow measurements from the river for several years.

“For the last five years, we’ve had unusually wet years, and so we’ve never been able to meet those conditions since 2005,” said Cindy Skrukrud, chairwoman of the group. “So, our study was kind of stalled.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports

That changed in late June, when volunteers were able to collect data from the river under low-flow conditions in Algonquin. Low water levels, running only through the center of the Fox River in parts of Algonquin, provided different data for the group.

“To really understand what you need to do to clean up the river, to protect it at all times, we needed to collect data and see what was going on during these real low-flow conditions,” Skrukrud said.

She said the drought has been hard on all kinds of animals, not just those on land.

“People think, ‘Well, those fish, they’re in the nice cool water, things are okay for them during the drought.’ Well, it’s tough on them, too, because the water’s not as cool as it typically is. It’s a lot hotter. It’s not holding as much oxygen,” Skrukrud said.

After collecting the data they needed, she said everyone in the group, “started doing our rain dances.”

Skrukrud said the group has been analyzing the data, in order to find ways of minimizing the Fox River’s nitrogen and phosphorous levels, which are typically elevated by farm runoff.

Runoff containing nitrogen and phosphorous can lead to the growth of algae, which consumes oxygen in the water, choking off oxygen for the fish in the river.

Being able to test the river under low-flow conditions can help the group identify regions of the river that are particularly sensitive to runoff and other pollution.