Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Fall Colors Are on Full Display at Chicago Botanic Garden

The Bulb Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. (Courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden)

Sunny days and cool nights have helped produce a vivid display of fall colors this season. At the Chicago Botanic Garden, thousands of trees are at their peak.

Chicago Plans to Expand Bike Sharing to ‘100 Percent of City’

A $2.5 million award to address climate change will help Chicago expand bike-share programs to all parts of the city, according to the mayor’s office.

16,000 Chicagoans Had Water Cut Off in Single Year, Study Finds

(Steve Johnson / Flickr)

An estimated 15 million people in the U.S. – including thousands of Chicago residents – experienced water shutoffs in 2016, in many cases because they failed to pay their water bills. 

Walmart to Install Solar Panels at 21 Sites in Illinois

(Pixabay)

The mega-retailer says plans to install solar panels at nearly two dozen sites across Illinois will represent a 25-percent increase in the state’s current solar capacity.

Durbin Calls for Increased Monitoring of Illinois Pork-Processing Plant

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Feb. 21, 2018.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is calling for federal action following a report that identified an Illinois meat-processing plant as the worst-polluting plant of its type in the country.

Chicago Group Gets $1M to Plant Trees, Combat Climate Change

(Laura Marie / Flickr)

Chicago-based environmental group Openlands has received a $1 million grant to address climate change by planting new trees and recruiting residents to protect them. 

EPA Settles With Chicago-Area Company Over Lead Paint Allegations

A warning sign on a tool factory in Rockport, Massachusetts. (Ben+Sam / Flickr)

A Bensenville-based home renovation company has agreed to pay nearly $53,000 for alleged violations of federal laws designed to protect against exposure to lead-based paint. 

Brookfield Zoo Rhino Celebrates Birthday After Surviving Life-Threatening Infection

Layla, an eastern black rhinoceros at Brookfield Zoo (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

The 2,300-pound rhinoceros, Layla, logged an important milestone this week, celebrating her eighth birthday just months after overcoming a near-deadly infection.

New Group Targets Overlooked Stretch of Chicago River

The Lathrop Riverfront Group holds a kick-off paddle along the Chicago River. (Courtesy Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

The Lathrop Riverfront Group was formed to promote the section of riverfront near the Julia C. Lathrop Homes, a Chicago Housing Authority project that is being redeveloped into a mixed-income riverfront community. 

Field Museum Offers Free Entry in Exchange for Help Digitizing Collections

A taxidermy mount of the foot of a Cooper’s hawk at the Field Museum (Courtesy The Field Museum)

From Thursday through Sunday, volunteers who help transcribe labels from the museum’s massive collection of physical specimens get free admission for the day and a behind-the-scenes tour.

Chicago-Area Gymnastics Coach Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges

Jose Vilchis (Will County Sheriff)

More than two decades after first being accused of sexual abuse, a longtime Chicago-area gymnastics coach was arrested Monday on charges of sexually assaulting at least one teenage girl who trained with him in the far southwest suburbs. 

Field Museum Exhibit to Toast Chicago’s Immigrant-Driven Beer History

Interior of a Chicago saloon, 1905 (Chicago Daily News negatives collection / Chicago History Museum)

Visitors to the Field Museum this fall will have a chance to soak up Chicago’s rich beer history, with a focus on the immigrant communities that established the city’s first breweries.

Diabetes Drug Could Prevent Deaths from Air Pollution, Study Finds

(SD-Pictures / Pixabay)

An inexpensive drug for Type 2 diabetes also decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by air pollution, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Illinois Has Worst-Polluting Meat-Processing Plant in US, Study Finds

A beef-processing plant (istanbulimage / iStock)

A pork-processing plant in western Illinois released an average of nearly 2,000 pounds of harmful nitrogen per day into a tributary of the Illinois River last year, according to a new report.

Activists Call on McDonald’s, Whole Foods to Clean Up Meat Supply Chains

Environmental activists pose for a photo during Wednesday’s protest in downtown Chicago. (Courtesy Mighty Earth)

According to a new report, McDonald’s and Whole Foods sell meat from agribusiness companies that are responsible for mass deforestation and pollution.

EPA Collects Soil from 100 Properties on Southeast Side for Manganese Testing

(Google Maps)

Soil samples have been collected from more than 100 properties as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to assess the threat posed by brain-damaging manganese emitted from nearby industrial sites.

Adoptable Chicago Dogs Appear on Dating App Bumble

Copa is a 1-year-old male dog available for adoption through Chicago's city-run animal shelter (Chicago Animal Care and Control)

Swiping right could help you find a new furry best friend, if not a date for the weekend.

Shedd Aquarium to Extend Hours for Guests with Disabilities

A mother and daughter explore Shedd’s Sensory-Friendly App, designed for guests with autism or a sensory processing disorder, in front of the aquarium’s Caribbean Reef exhibit. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

On Oct. 16 and Nov. 14, registered guests will be able to explore all of Shedd’s exhibits in a “comfortable and accepting environment” as part of a new “Calm Waters” program.

Storms Prompt Sewage Discharge into Chicago River Near Edgebrook, Lawndale

A section of the North Branch of the Chicago River in Edgebrook on Oct. 2, 2018 (Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

Overnight storms brought more than 1.5 inches of rain in parts of the Chicago area Monday night, prompting sewage discharges into several local rivers.

City Solicits Solar Energy Developers for Vacant South, West Side Lots

(Courtesy Solar Energy Industries Association)

Chicago is seeking proposals to install solar panels on 30 acres of previously developed land in Austin, Englewood, West Pullman, Riverdale and South Deering. 

EPA to Host Chicago Hearing on Repeal of Obama-Era Clean Power Plan

(Jeremy Atherton / Wikimedia Commons)

Local public health experts are set to testify at a Chicago hearing next week on the Trump administration’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which established limits on pollution from power plants. 

EPA Awards Nearly $60,000 for Chicago River Education Project

(Chicago Tonight file photo)

A new federal grant aims to help educators use the Chicago River as a “living classroom” to teach students about water quality issues. 

Advocates Celebrate Opening of Restored Horner Park Riverfront

(Courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

An effort that began two decades ago to restore the banks of the North Branch of the Chicago River in Horner Park is finally complete.

Lincoln Park Zoo Names Megan Ross as First Female Director

Megan Ross (Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)

The zoo’s former curator of birds becomes the first woman to hold the position of director in the zoo’s 150-year history, and the first zoo director since the institution privatized in 1995.

After Firing Previous CACC Director, Emanuel Names Permanent Head

Kelley Gandurski (Kelley Gandurski / Facebook)

Nearly three months after the controversial firing of Susan Russell, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has named Kelley Gandurski as executive director of Chicago Animal Care and Control.