Great Lakes Now Presents

Episode 2306: A Better Future

A community fights for a cleaner future, creatively tackling food waste, and The Catch.


A Better Future – Episode 2306


In the latest episode of Great Lakes Now, “A Better Future,” a Chicago community surrounded by industry fights for a cleanup, a creative approach to keeping food waste out of landfills in Cleveland and The Catch.



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Premieres on DPTV

Monday, June 26, at 7:30 PM


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In the Month of June on Great Lakes Now

Click the tabs to read descriptions of each feature in Episode 2306.

A Community Fights For A Cleaner Future

SEGMENT 1 | Chicago, Illinois

Located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan is Chicago’s Southeast Side. For years, it was an industrial powerhouse where steel mills, oil refineries and other manufacturers employed thousands of workers. “Yeah, I mean, it was great. I mean, we really didn’t, weren’t aware of a lot of the environmental pollution,” said Linda Gonzalez, a longtime Southeast side resident. For years, pollution was just part of life in that area of Chicago. When jobs started drying up, an industrial wasteland was left behind. There are at least two dozen toxic waste sites on the Southeast Side, some located near schools and parks.

For decades it was standard practice for companies to dump liquid and solid waste into nearby marshes and waterways, like the Calumet River. The river is the center of Chicago’s industrial corridor on the Southeast Side, where large freighters come in to load and unload cargo. The Calumet needs regular dredging to accommodate these huge ships, which is the job of the US Army Corps of Engineers. The muck that’s dredged up from the bottom of the river is filled with toxic materials such as PCB’s, lead, mercury, barium and other heavy metals.

Since the 1980’s, the Army Corps has been putting the toxic waste into a dump site called a Contained Disposal Facility, or CDF, where the Calumet meets Lake Michigan. It’s right next to a park where children play, and now, the site is full and the Army Corps wants to expand the dump site upward. “They want to build a 25-foot higher berm and then be able to add more space behind that to keep dumping there,” said Juanita Irizarry, Executive Director of Friends of the Parks in Chicago. “We think it’s ridiculous to do that in any case, but most certainly right on the lakeshore.”

In an effort to halt expansion of the CDF, the Environmental Law and Policy Center has filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of the Southeast Side community. The Southeast Side community won a partial victory when the Illinois EPA changed the permitting process for the dump site. As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers says “completion of the vertical expansion will be delayed one to two years.”

Here is other Great Lakes Now work on environmental justice:

Environmental justice expert questions Michigan’s subsidies for electric vehicles

As agencies seek more environmental justice data, longtime residents are skeptical

“Battling Food Waste for People and the Planet”

SEGMENT 2 | Cleveland, Ohio

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the United States roughly one third of food intended for human consumption ends up as food waste. That’s a big problem.

When food is discarded, all the inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, and storing food are wasted and carbon dioxide is produced. And when food waste ends up in landfills, it rots and creates methane – a harmful greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to climate change.

Join GLN as we head to Cleveland, Ohio, where Dan Brown and his team at Rust Belt Riders are helping their community redefine their relationship with food waste. They collect food waste from around the city and use it to create compost and soil. Their efforts are helping the environment and kickstarting the city’s circular economy.

We’ll also learn about a new food waste pilot program underway at Cleveland’s historical West Side Market. The program includes a composting as well as a food rescue component, which helps keep edible (but unsellable) food out of the trash and onto the plates of some of the city’s most food insecure residents.


Here is other Great Lakes Now work on food waste:

These 3 Detroit restaurants are tackling climate change in the kitchen

‘Circular economy’ programs aim to reduce waste and build jobs

The Catch: News about the Lakes You Love

SEGMENT 3 | Manistique, MI; Lake Superior, Cleveland, OH

This segment – The Catch – in our award-winning PBS program will keep you in the know. This month, stories about an Upper Peninsula bicycling event, long-term average water rise in Lake Superior and a fishing competition gone wrong.

First, a look at “Tour Da Yoop, Eh,” James Studinger’s 10-day bike journey throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. James set out to create a safe route for bicyclists that allows them to explore the landscapes and towns in the area. Since creating the bike event in 2018, James has been pushing officials to adopt road safety measures for cyclists in the U.P. and beyond. “A unique thing about the Upper Peninsula is it’s a big landmass but it’s skinny in so it’s an easy place to create this type of a loop logistically where you could do a section of it,” said James. 

Next, a story about water levels in Lake Superior from MLive Chief Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa. Mark says that according to data from April 2023, there’s been an increase in long-term average water rise of 3 inches, meaning that Lake Superior levels could see record numbers this summer. Mark says that global warming can be an underlying cause of this rise, which will create more variability regarding water levels in the future. 

Finally, a look at a Great Lakes fishing competition gone wrong. Interlochen Public Radio’s Dan Wanschura of the Points North Podcast tells the story of two anglers caught cheating at the annual Lake Erie Walleye Trail. The two fisherman were sentenced to 10 days in jail along with a variety of fines and penalties. To combat the cheating moving forward, Wanschura says that the competitions are utilizing polygraph tests for winning participants to prove that they truthfully won the tournament. 

Other stories from The Catch

Previous Episodes

Featured Articles

Cornish Roots & Nettle Shoots: A Foraged Pasty Recipe from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
- by Lisa M. Rose

By blending the old with the new — traditional recipes with wild, foraged foods — we not only preserve our culinary heritage but also embrace a sustainable approach to eating and land conservation that honors both our past and our planet and our collective future.

Points North: Copper Country’s Conundrum
- by Interlochen Public Radio

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is Copper Country. Some see copper mining as an economic boon for the region, but others worry it could come at the cost of some of the Great Lakes’ most pristine wild spaces.

Audit finds mix of successes, problems with Great Lakes restoration grants
- by Bridge Michigan

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has improved conditions in polluted lakes and rivers, but sometimes failed to deliver on environmental justice goals.

Millions sweating it out as heat wave nears peak from Midwest to Maine
- by The Associated Press

A heat wave extending from the Midwest to New England moved closer to a breaking point Thursday, with millions of people sweating it out for another day.

Digital Credits
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Anna Sysling.