Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

New Sponge Can Soak Up 90 Times its Own Weight in Oil

(Argonne National Laboratory)

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have invented a new sponge that can absorb oil from water and then be wrung out and reused, a potentially game-changing tool for dealing with oil spills.

Neurologist: Manganese Exposure Limits Not Adequate

Manganese is one of the materials processed at a refinery in Worsley, Australia. (Courtesy of South32)

Federal limits for exposure to manganese might not be adequate to protect public health, says a Washington University neurologist. 

Alderwoman: More Info Needed to Evaluate Chicago Manganese Ban

Several advocacy groups are calling on Chicago to ban storage of materials containing manganese in residential areas following a 2016 study that revealed potentially harmful levels of manganese dust on the city’s Southeast Side.

Chicago Rejects Company’s Plan to Control Manganese Dust

A company on Chicago’s Southeast Side has 30 days to submit a revised plan to control the release of manganese dust, according to the city’s Department of Public Health.

Chicago Facility Linked to Manganese Meets Air-Monitor Deadline

A company under pressure from the EPA over potentially harmful emissions of manganese dust has met the agency’s March 1 deadline for installing air monitors at its Chicago facility.

Chicago Pushes Charging Stations as Electric Car Sales Rise in Illinois

(Janitors / Creative Commons)

Chicago is offering grant funding to cover up to 30 percent of equipment and installation costs for new direct current fast-charging stations, which can charge electric vehicles in 20 to 30 minutes. 

Bill Would Allow Illinois Farmers to Grow Industrial Hemp

(kat_geb / Flickr)

At least 16 states have legalized industrial hemp production for commercial purposes. Could Illinois be next?

Despite ‘Activist Fatigue,’ Chicago Community Addresses Manganese

Part 3 of our series examining pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side

S.H. Bell’s South Avenue O Terminal in Chicago (Chicago Tonight)

A group of Southeast Side residents and activists met Tuesday night to formulate a plan for confronting the latest threat of pollution in one of Chicago’s most industrialized areas.

Shedd Staff Help Rescue Endangered Penguin Chicks in South Africa

(Shedd Aquarium)

For the fifth year, members of Shedd Aquarium's Animal Response Team participated in a rescue mission of endangered penguin chicks in South Africa. Learn about their work.

‘Public Health Hazard’ in Ohio Has Chicago Community Concerned

Part 2 of our series examining pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side

The carefully documented history of manganese emissions in a small Ohio city serves as a warning for those concerned about newly discovered manganese concentrations on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side.

S.H. Bell: We’re Not Sole Manganese Source on Chicago’s Southeast Side

S.H. Bell Co., a company linked to potential manganese pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side, said Thursday it is not the sole emitter of manganese dust in the area. 

After Petcoke, Community Confronts More Dangerous Pollutant: Manganese

Part 1 of our series examining pollution on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side

(Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

For decades, residents on Chicago’s Far Southeast Side lived with clouds of black dust from nearby industrial sites. Now, the community faces a more dangerous pollutant: manganese. 

EPA Staff Rally in Chicago, Protest Trump’s Nomination to Head Agency

(Courtesy of the Sierra Club)

Several dozen employees based in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chicago office joined a downtown rally Monday afternoon to protest President Donald Trump’s nomination to lead the agency.

Meteor Lights Up Skies Above Chicago, Midwest

(Lisle Police Department)

A bright meteor streaked across skies in Chicago and the Midwest at about 1:30 a.m. Monday. 

Chicago-Based Climate Change Skeptics Eager for Trump to Reset ‘Fake Science’

Heartland Institute President and CEO Joseph Bast (Courtesy of Heartland Institute)

With an expected audience of officials appointed by President Donald Trump, the Heartland Institute hopes to reset U.S. climate policy, which is also the theme for its upcoming International Conference on Climate Change.

Buy Toys for Animals from Lincoln Park Zoo’s Enrichment ‘Wish List’

(Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Siku the polar bear wants a floating stone. Bella the baby guerilla wants carrots. The holiday season has passed, but Chicago zoo animals are still hoping for gifts.

Chicago to Give Away 25,000 Reusable ‘ChiBags’ for Start of Bag Tax

(Illinois Environmental Council)

Starting Wednesday, customers will pay a 7-cent tax on each paper and plastic bag provided by stores to carry out items in all Chicago retail stores. 

Illinois’ US Senators, Reps. Respond to Trump’s Executive Order on Refugees

A majority of Illinois' congressional members have issued statements about President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries. Find out what they have to say.

Cook County Laying Blueprint for New Age of Community Solar Projects

(Solar Energy Industries Association)

Cook County is more than halfway through a multiyear project that aims to make solar energy more affordable for residents.

Lead Testing, Energy Jobs Highlight Illinois’ 2016 Environmental Scorecard

On Thursday, the Illinois Environmental Council released its Environmental Scorecard, highlighting the top pieces of environmental legislation (and legislators) from 2016. 

MWRD Deal Aims to Reduce Algae Pollution in Chicago River

The decadeslong fight to clean up the Chicago River took a step forward last week with the resolution of two lawsuits targeting phosphorous discharge that has polluted waters from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico.

Chicago Activists Prepare to Defend Environment Under Trump

(Daniel Dionne / Flickr)

Dozens of Chicago activists met last week to plan a defense of environmental policies that appear vulnerable under the administration of President Donald Trump.

Meet Patsy McNasty, Notebaert Nature Museum’s Alligator Snapping Turtle

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's alligator snapping turtle, Patsy McNasty, moved into a bigger tank Jan. 19. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Alligator snapping turtle Patsy McNasty moved into a new 300-gallon tank this week at Chicago's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where visitors attended a “housewarming” event for the 14-pound turtle. 

Chicago Counting on Complaints to Enforce New Recycling Ordinance

(Brian Johnson and Dane Kantner / Flickr)

Chicago will depend on residents to help enforce the city’s updated recycling ordinance – at least initially. The changes, which took effect Jan. 1, mark the first update to the city’s recycling rules in 20 years.

Report: Pollution Leading Cause of Death Worldwide

Pollution causes 10 million deaths per year, according to an upcoming report written by 50 researchers and policymakers, including Chicago-based energy experts.