Cleaning up Illinois Rivers

Illinois Radio Network

A cleanup of the Chicago River is coming.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are demanding that partially-treated sewage dumped into the river be disinfected. Cost: About $72 million, but U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says other major cities have cleaned up their sewage, with the help of federal funds, and he'll try to secure federal funds to help with this project.

Due to partially-treated human and industrial waste, bacteria levels in the Chicago River are extraordinarily high. The river was at one time exempt from the toughest provisions of the Clean Water Act of 1972 because it was assumed that people would stay out of the river, but its use for recreation has been growing, prompting the demand for sewage sterilization.

Downstaters should be interested because whatever goes into the Chicago River ends up in the Des Plaines, Illinois and Mississippi rivers. "Everything that winds up in the river in Chicago one way or the other makes its way down the water system," says Howard Learner, director of the Environmental Law and Policy enter.