About 40 citizens gathered Wednesday for the inaugural meeting of the Buffalo Creek Clean Water Partnership, providing enough interest and ideas to get the new organization off the ground.
Buffalo Grove resident Jeff Weiss organized the group, which he said will address issues pertaining to water quality, flooding, erosion and habitats along the stream, which receives water from 11 communities in Cook and Lake counties.
The 27-square-mile area includes water in Lake Zurich, Deer Park, Inverness, Barrington and Palatine. Tributaries flow through Long Grove, Kildeer and Arlington Heights, and empty into a reservoir in the Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve. Buffalo Creek continues through Buffalo Grove before emptying into the Des Plaines River near Chicago Executive Airport.
An overview of the area was presented Wednesday by Weiss, along with representatives from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Lake County Health Department, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.
The watershed — the land area around a common receiving body of water — differs throughout the region, said Dawn Thompson, who represented the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
While Lake County tends to have large residential lots and open space, the Cook County portion is almost completely developed with homes, businesses and industries, she said. And those different uses can impact the watershed in different ways.
“We want to make sure our decisions are aimed at improving water quality,” said Thompson.
The creek is impaired by phosphorus, chloride, fecal coliform, suspended solids and low dissolved oxygen, said Jennifer Clarke, who studies pollutants for the IEPA’s Bureau of Water
Chloride comes from road salt, she said, while fecal matter can result from failing septic systems and excrement from geese and pets.
By developing a watershed plan — which some estimated could take about two years to complete — Weiss said the group could secure grant funds to help improve the area.
When one woman asked what the water should look like, Weiss had a simple answer: “We want it to be clear and clean.” He also envisioned “healthy stream banks” and “stream channels with mussels and crayfish.”
During breakout sessions Wednesday night, citizens shared ideas and concerns for the area. The conversations touched on aesthetics, contamination and flood plains.
Weiss said he’d like to start applying for grants this summer that would help the group develop a watershed plan.
About 100,000 people live along the watershed, and Weiss said about 100 have joined his email list. He said he was pleased with the turnout at the first meeting.
“It looks like we have plenty of interest in going forward with a watershed group,” he said.
The group’s next meeting has not yet been scheduled, but Weiss said it will take place in the next couple of months. Information about the Buffalo Creek Clean Water Partnership can be found at www.buffalocreekcleanwater.org.
Those who want to get involved sooner are invited to join the Buffalo Grove Environmental Action Team — another group founded by Weiss — Saturday for a habitat restoration project at Mike Rylko Community Park.