Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Lake Michigan’s First Floating Water Park to Open in Mid-June

Officials in Whiting, Indiana, think their city is about to become a whole lot more popular.

Chicago Earns 4 of 5 ‘Park Benches’ in Ranking of Urban Park Systems

Chicago didn’t quite crack the top 10, but the city did receive four out of five “park benches” and moved up to No. 11 in the latest ranking of park systems in the nation’s 100 biggest cities.

UIC Expands Rapid Water Testing at Chicago Beaches

(Flickr / Eric Allix Rogers)

Same-day water testing conducted at UIC's School of Public Health will give Chicagoans more timely alerts about water quality at their favorite beaches this summer. 

Brookfield Zoo Welcomes the Pangolin, World’s Most Trafficked Animal

For the first time, Brookfield Zoo is exhibiting a pangolin, a rare animal native to Africa and Asia. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

For the first time, Brookfield Zoo is exhibiting a pangolin, a rare animal native to Africa and Asia.

Illinois Agency Awarded Controversial Counter-Extremism Grant

(U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

A state criminal justice agency was awarded nearly $200,000 in grant funding as part of a federal initiative to prevent ideologically motivated violence, but critics say the program discriminates against Muslims.

Agency Awarded $200K Grant Without Approval from ‘Partner’ Organizations

An Illinois criminal justice agency secured a nearly $200,000 counter-extremism grant without approval from several “partner” organizations listed in its grant application. 

Legislator: Bill Would Trigger $2.2B in Illinois Wind Energy Projects

(Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science)

Tweaking Illinois' landmark energy bill would trigger more than $2 billion in wind farm construction, a state senator says. 

Study: Chicago’s Forests Threatened by Climate Change

(Flickr / Laura Marie)

A first-of-its-kind study shows that forests in Chicago face significant threats from climate change, with native trees especially vulnerable to increases in temperature, precipitation and other changes.

Bill Aims to Overhaul Illinois’ Electronic Recycling Program

(Monterey Regional Waste Management District)

Legislation proposed this week in the Illinois Senate would require electronics manufacturers to pay for permanent recycling drop-off sites set up by counties.

Former NASA Engineer’s Interesting Take on Women in Science

(YouTube / Virgin Galactic)

Northbrook native Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor for the world's first commercial spaceline, returns to Chicago to receive Adler Planetarium's Women in Space Science Award. 

Chicago Bolsters Graffiti Removal Fleet, Kicks Off Cleaning Sweeps

(Department of Streets and Sanitation)

The city’s neighborhood cleaning program kicked off this year with additional graffiti-removal crews and new chemical-blasting trucks.

Illinois Sues Chicago Metal Company Over Leaked Chemicals

(Google Maps)

A company on the West Side of Chicago has been cited for improperly storing chemicals and threatening public health, according to a suit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Could Milwaukee Be a Model for Replacing Chicago’s Lead Water Pipes?

Advocacy group Milwaukee Water Commons holds an event in support of clean water in August 2016. (Milwaukee Water Commons)

Organizers of a clean water summit in Chicago next week hope to draft a plan for replacing the city's nearly 400,000 lead water pipes. 

Acoustic Monitors Track Return of Bats in Chicago

(Anne Brooke / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Microphones placed across the Chicago area by the Lincoln Park Zoo are tracking the return of bats to the region this spring. 

9,000 Mussels Deployed to Fight Pollution in DuPage River

(Forest Preserve District of DuPage County)

A west suburban forest preserve is dispatching an army of freshwater mussels to clean up contaminated waters. “They may be small, but they have enormous beneficial effects on the lives of other organisms,” said one staff member.

Illinois Among Worst States for Contaminated Drinking Water

(Steve Johnson / Flickr)

A new report shows that in 2015, Illinois ranked among the five worst states in terms of largest populations served by water systems with health violations. 

New ‘Pokémon Go’ Bill Rejected by Illinois Lawmakers

A bill to protect ecologically sensitive and historic sites from players of virtual games like “Pokémon Go” has failed to gain support among Illinois legislators.

Lisa Madigan Among 16 AGs Opposing Rollback of Air Quality Standards

(Creative Commons /  © 2013, Jeremy Atherton)

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined a group of 16 attorneys general last week in urging Congress to reject the rollback of standards that combat pollution and protect air quality.

Threats to Great Lakes Topic of Summit at UIC’s Freshwater Lab

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

With nearly $300 million in federal funding on the chopping block, leaders from across the Great Lakes region will convene next month in Chicago to address lead poisoning, oil pipelines and other threats to the area’s waters.

Northwestern Expert Devises Method for Quantifying Impact of Global Warming


A study co-authored by Northwestern University climate expert Daniel Horton outlines a framework for measuring the impact of global warming on extreme weather events. 

Museum of Science and Industry Sits Out Chicago’s Science March

March for Science Chicago organizers said 60,000 people attended the April 22 event. (Susan Wigodner / Twitter)

According to organizers, an estimated 60,000 people attended the March for Science Chicago, making it the largest of those that took place Saturday in 400-plus cities worldwide. But some area institutions did not officially support the event.

Study: Disposable Bag Use Down 42 Percent in Wake of Chicago Bag Tax

(Walmart / Flickr)

Studies estimate that more than 100 billion plastic bags are used annually in the U.S. But in Chicago, many shoppers have switched their habits since the start of the city’s tax on plastic and paper bags, a new study shows. 

Chicago Park District Limits Pesticides, Offers Lawn Care Tips

(Midwest Pesticide Action Center)

As Chicagoans usher in spring and get outside, the Chicago Park District is highlighting its efforts to limit the use of pesticides at nearly 600 parks across the city.

Field Museum at Center of Chicago’s March for Science

Emily Graslie appears on Chicago Tonight in September 2015.

The rally, march and expo is projected to be among the largest of those taking place Saturday in 400-plus cities worldwide.

Photos: EPA Head Scott Pruitt Greeted by Protesters in East Chicago

Community Strategy Group organizer April Friendly, left, leads a rally Wednesday during EPA head Scott Pruitt's visit to East Chicago. (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

About 100 East Chicago residents and activists rallied and marched Wednesday while EPA head Scott Pruitt visited the city's lead-contaminated neighborhoods.