Environmental Justice in Lake County
Lake County is home to some of the healthiest and most biologically diverse ecosystems in the state of Illinois. From an expansive network of forest preserves, to the lakefront, and even community parks and green space, there are lots of great places to connect with nature. However, the county is also subjected to a lot of pollution and barriers to accessing these beautiful spaces. There are Superfund sites, long-time industrial pollution, and lack of transportation that makes it difficult for people to connect to the natural resources we have in Lake County. These issues are not affecting everyone equally; people of color and low income communities are most likely to suffer the negative health impacts of pollution in their communities. These issues are example of environmental injustice and environmental racism. Brushwood Center is partnering with Clean Power Lake County to share the story of environmental justice in Lake County, and what community members are doing to create a healthier, safer environment for all. Learn more by reading and interacting with the different components below!
Eddie's Environmental Justice Journey
Eddie's Environmental Justice Journey is an environmental justice coloring book. This coloring book was created in partnership by Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, Clean Power Lake County (CPLC), and artist Diana Nava. This book was designed to tell the story of local environmental activism, and amplify the voices and vision of communities impacted industrial air pollution in Lake County. Through CPLC, community residents are advocating for a new vision for the community, rooted in clean jobs and justice. We hope that by amplifying this story, and sharing the community's vision with those who can help join the call for change, we inspire others to organize, stand up for our communities, and join the fight to protect our shared Earth.
Eduardo Flores is a 2020 graduate of Waukegan High School, a student at College of Lake County, and Co-Chair of Clean Power Lake County. He first became involved with CPLC through their youth internship program. Eddie has also participated in programs with the Brushwood Center, Lake County Openlands, and the Green New Deal. He is a lifelong resident of Waukegan and is committed to empowering community members to work for positive change and share the story of hope for the city he loves.
What's a SuperFund Site?
Superfund sites are polluted locations in the United States requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations. These sites have been identified by the government as extremely hazardous and as a priority for clean up, though the actual process of cleaning up the sites is more complicated. They were designated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980. There are 11 Superfund sites in Illinois. Five of these eleven sites are in Waukegan. You can explore these sites and other toxic sites through the virtual Toxic Tour Map below. Click on each colored polygon to learn more about the history of that site:
What are Local Activists Doing?
A world where everyone, regardless of who they are, can live in a healthy environment. Since its foundation in 2013, that has been the mission Clean Power Lake County has fought for in Waukegan, Lake County and beyond. However, as an environmental justice community, Waukegan faces environmental threats from all sides. 5 Superfund sites from the city’s industrial past. An F rating in air quality from industry and the coal-fired power plant. Increased cancer risk from ethylene-oxide emissions from nearby industrial facilities.
Despite all obstacles, CPCL has secured several victories for Lake County’s health and environment. In June 2021, NRG announced that their coal-fired power plant based in Waukegan is set to close in 2022, marking a pivotal success for CPLC’s fight against pollution. Furthermore, CPLC contributed to the passing of the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act (SB9), thus enforcing strict regulations for coal ash disposal at the state level and making Illinois one of three states to implement coal ash legislation at the state level. CPLC led and helped write the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) and the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) passed in 2016 and 2021, respectively. Both bills are crucial climate, equity-oriented bills that advance CPLC’s environmental justice mission, securing a just transition for the coal plant in Waukegan.
What Can You Do?
Everyone can play a part in the fight for environmental justice. You can help support this work by speaking with others in your community, reaching out to local elected officials, creating artwork or informational campaigns to educate others, and joining organizations like Clean Power Lake County! Stay up to date on specific calls to action by signing up for the CPLC newsletter:
Places to Visit in Lake County
Spending time outdoors can have amazing impacts on our health. It can improve our mood, help lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and even improve test scores in students! Engaging with art can also have amazing benefits for our minds and bodies. Lake County is full of beautiful natural areas and cool places to explore, here are some of our favorites:
Things to Do this Summer:
Highwood Public Library Summer Reading Kickoff Adventure | Lectura de Verano Inicio a la Aventura
June 11 @ 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Join the Highwood Public Library for a family fun day with activities for all ages. Dig for fossils, participate in outdoor games, take photos in our outdoor photobooth, explore our storywalk and so much more! This event will feature a visit from K-9 Reading Buddies of the North Shore as well as an interactive presentation by the local Wildlife Discovery Center. No registration required, email Alice at
email@example.com for more details.
Únase a la Biblioteca Pública de Highwood por un día de diversión familiar con actividades para todas las edades. Escarbe fósiles, participe en juegos al aire libre, tome fotos en nuestra cabina de fotos, explore el camino de historia y mucho mas! Este evento contará con una visita de los K-9 Reading Buddies del North Shore ademas de una presentación interactiva de Wildlife Discovery Center. No se necesita registrar, contacte a Alice a firstname.lastname@example.org para mas detalles.
Saturday, June 18th, 9 am -5 pm
Day of Celebration and Reflection as we celebration Juneteenth - The freedom of African Americans. Events include a Parade in North Chicago, Black Expo in Waukegan, Gospel Concert and a Prayer Breakfast. Youth in the community will showcase their talents through marching bands, drill teams, sound stage, and community leadership projects associated with the three-day festival.
There will be ongoing Violence Prevention programming during and after the event. There will be health and wellness screening presented by regional health institutions.
Kids Nature Funfest with the Lake County Nature Network
Sunday, August 7th, 1-4 pm
At Greenbelt Forest Preserve, 1110 S Green Bay Rd, North Chicago, IL 60035
Join the Lake County Nature Network for a fun-filled afternoon outside! There will be lots of different nature activities, including crafts, pond scooping, guided walks, and more. Explore all the cool organizations and programs that the Lake County Nature Network partners have to offer, and have a fun last-day-of-summer outdoors!