The Ryerson Welcome Center in Deerfield, opened in 2006 by the Lake County Forest Preserve District as a model for environmental design, was to have included use of stored rainwater to flush toilets.
But it took four years before permission was secured from the Illinois Department of Public Health to do so and it remains one of relatively few buildings in northeastern Illinois to use what is regarded as an important conservation practice.
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The process should become easier following action Thursday by Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed a bill at Ryerson directing IDPH to update the state plumbing code.
"I can't think of a better place to do it," said Quinn, who also signed three other bills involving conservation or the environment during a stop at the Ryerson Conservation Area.
Changes in the plumbing code are to be complete by May 31, 2013. Currently, there are no statewide standards covering the use of rainwater for toilet flushing and other uses. The measure was sponsored by state Sen. Susan Garrett of Highwood and state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills, both Democrats.
"If we are able to reuse our water in a safe and efficient way, we can combat these droughts," Garrett said. The changes could help prevent water restrictions, which have become common during the drought, she added.
The measure was hailed by planning and environmental organizations as promoting leading technologies and opening the door to new tools and policies that will save water and reduce strain on aging infrastructure.
Quinn also signed laws establishing recycling and composting standards and a task force to analyze recycling and waste management polices, initiatives and funding; a measure requiring aquatic plants or animals be removed from the exterior of a boat, vehicle or seaplane before it is transported; and, laws that allow the forest district to sell a structure on its land without selling the land itself and to sell surplus items without advertising the sale if three-fifths of the forest board agree.