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Stories by Alex Ruppenthal

Southeast Side Facility to Stop Handling Bulk Amounts of Brain-Damaging Manganese

An overhead view of Watco's storage terminal at 2926 E. 126th St. in Chicago. (Google)

Watco Transloading says it will no longer handle materials with high concentrations of manganese, a heavy metal used in steelmaking that can cause brain damage at high exposure levels. 

T. Rex Check: Sue’s Arm, Leg Bones Examined in Attempt to Diagnose Past Injuries

Field Museum scientists remove several bones from Sue the T. Rex on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Eric Manabat / The Field Museum)

What can CT scans tell us about the diseases or injuries Sue the T. Rex might have had? Scientists are hoping to determine just that, but needed to remove several bones Tuesday for testing.

Turtle With Rare Genetic Condition Adopted by Suburban Ecologist

Shirlee, a Blanding’s turtle, as a new hatchling in 2017 (Courtesy Forest Preserve District of DuPage County)

A rare yellow-hued Blanding’s turtle who called Chicago home has moved out to the suburbs, where she’s helping to spread the word about the plight of her endangered species throughout Illinois.

Valentino, a Baby Antelope, Born on Valentine’s Day at Brookfield Zoo

Valentino, a small African antelope, was born Thursday at Brookfield Zoo. (Cathy Bazzoni / Chicago Zoological Society)

A tiny African antelope that belongs to one of the smallest species of its kind in the world received a name befitting his Feb. 14 birthday.

Activists Denounce Mayor Emanuel’s Renewable Energy Plan

Kimberly Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, speaks during a press conference Thursday in response to a new renewable energy plan unveiled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (Courtesy Little Village Environmental Justice Organization)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces a plan for transitioning Chicago buildings to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. But community advocates say the plan ignores existing environmental threats in some parts of the city.

Illinois Defies National Trend by Adding 1,300 Solar Jobs in 2018

(Andrew Kuhn / Flickr)

The U.S. solar energy industry lost nearly 8,000 jobs last year, but Illinois was one of just eight states that saw a significant increase in solar jobs.

New App Developed at Brookfield Zoo Helps Optimize Dolphins’ Diets

An animal care specialist at Brookfield Zoo measures the girth of a dolphin. (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

Unlike the industry serving health-conscious humans, there are no books, infomercials or 12-week programs to help dolphins optimize their diets. But there is an app for that, thanks to new research by animal welfare specialists.

MWRD Says It’s On Pace to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 50 Percent

MWRD says that new primary settling tanks at its Stickney Water Reclamation Plant are lowering its carbon footprint by trapping methane emissions and generating energy that can be returned to the plant. (Courtesy Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

The Chicago area’s wastewater treatment agency says it is ahead of schedule in its efforts to combat climate change. 

State Rep’s Bill Aims to Expand Illinois’ Renewable Energy Portfolio

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

State Rep. Will Davis plans to file legislation this week that he says would expand the state’s share of renewable energy to 40 percent of total energy sources by 2030.

New Field Museum Exhibit to Showcase Stunning Wildlife Photography

A lioness drinks from a waterhole in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. (© Isak Pretorius, South Africa)

“Wildlife Photographer of the Year,” based on the prestigious photography competition of the same name, will feature 100 winning photos selected among 45,000 submissions from 95 countries. We preview the show.

MWRD Warns of Potential Flooding as Chicago Thaws from Deep Freeze

Ice covers the Chicago River on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses. (AP Photo / Teresa Crawford)

Melting snow and potential rain are likely to cause flooding as we head into a weekend warm-up following a record-setting Arctic blast.

Chicago Announces Record Release Rate at City Animal Shelter

(Chicago Animal Care and Control / Facebook)

More than 90 percent of the 16,000-plus animals sheltered by Chicago Animal Care and Control last year were either adopted, transferred to a rescue group or returned to their owner, according to city data. 

Shiver, Fluff and Cuddle: How Birds Keep Warm in the Winter

Swallows huddled together during a snowstorm (Keith Williams / Flickr)

Unlike humans, birds do not have the luxury of high-powered heating systems to keep warm in the winter, but they do have a variety of unique adaptations to help them survive.

Call Before Bringing Pets to Chicago Warming Centers, City Says

Morning commuters face a tough slog on Wacker Drive in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Rich Hein / Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Those seeking refuge from this week’s bitter cold at one of Chicago’s public warming centers should not assume their dog or cat will be allowed in with them.

BBB Warns of Cold-Weather Scams as Temperatures Plummet

CTA trains move along snow-covered tracks Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo / Kiichiro Sato)

As extreme cold sets in, be on the lookout for scams involving driveway shoveling, furnace inspections and utility bills, the Better Business Bureau says. 

Chicago Zoos to Close in Anticipation of Extreme Cold

Hudson, a polar bear at Brookfield Zoo (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo plan to close for parts of the week as record-breaking lows are expected to move into the area.

Chicago Adopts Stricter Rules for Manganese, Other Pollutants

(Google Maps)

Chicago facilities that process potentially harmful industrial materials must now take further steps to ensure they aren’t polluting surrounding neighborhoods.

Tips for Managing Icy Sidewalks Without Harming the Environment

Snow-clearing efforts at Millennium Park following a snow storm on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune via AP)

Although ice melt products can help clear slick walkways, they can also harm pets and cause damage to lawns, gardens and waterways. What you need to know.

Chicago Museums Offer Free Admission to Federal Workers During Shutdown

(Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

A handful of museums and cultural institutions in and around Chicago are offering free admission to workers affected by the ongoing federal government shutdown. 

Gov. Pritzker Signs Pact Committing Illinois to Paris Climate Goals

In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker speaks after he is elected over Republican incumbent Bruce Rauner. (AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh)

The move by Illinois’ new governor marks a sharp departure from his predecessor, former Gov. Bruce Rauner, who made little to no mention of the state’s role in curbing carbon emissions that most scientists agree contribute to global warming.

Kari Steele Elected as New President at MWRD

Newly elected MWRD President Kari Steele (center) with Finance Chairman Frank Avila and Vice President Barbara McGowan (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)

New MWRD President Kari Steele is the only chemist on the organization’s nine-member board. She was re-elected in November to a second term as commissioner. 

Shark Remains Discovered in Rock That Contained Sue the T. Rex

Remains of a freshwater shark with teeth shaped like spaceships from the 1980s video game Galaga was discovered in sediment surrounding Sue the T. Rex’s bones. (Velizar Simeonovski / Field Museum)

Tiny fossilized teeth found in sediment that surrounded Sue the T. Rex have led to the classification of a new shark species. 

Brookfield Zoo to Establish New Pack of Endangered Mexican Wolves

Apache, foreground, a 7-year-old old male Mexican wolf recently arrived at Brookfield Zoo to be paired with 2-year-old Ela. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

Zoo officials say they’re hopeful that 2-year-old Ela and newcomer Apache, 7, will have a successful breeding season this winter and produce a litter of wolf pups in the spring.

Illinois Governor’s Mansion Secures LEED Status After $15M Renovation

The Illinois Governor’s Mansion (Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association)

Outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner are leaving the Governor’s Mansion in significantly greater – and greener – shape than they found it. And now the historic home has the paperwork to prove it.

No Contamination Found in Water Near Sterigenics’ Willowbrook Plant

John Berg, an environmental health specialist with the DuPage County Health Department, runs water from a private well in Willowbrook on Dec. 13, 2018, as part of testing for levels of cancer-causing ethylene oxide. (Alex Ruppenthal / WTTW)

Water samples collected at homes near a suburban medical sterilization plant linked to a cancer-causing gas showed no signs of contamination, environmental regulators announced Wednesday.