Durbin: EPA Decision is an Important Opportunity to Make Chicago River Accessible for Generations to Come
Senator pledges to work in Congress to help MWRD met new EPA standards
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today said that a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require improved water quality standards for the Chicago River is an important opportunity to make this iconic waterway accessible to generations of boaters, kayakers and even swimmers. Durbin also pledged to work with MWRD, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois to identify federal resources that can be made available to meet the EPA’s new standard.
“Discharging untreated sewage into the Chicago River is a threat to public health and unacceptable in a great city,” said Durbin. “Today, Chicago is the only major metropolitan area in the nation that does not disinfect the sewage that flows into its river. I agree with the EPA’s decision to raise water quality standards in and around Chicago to reflect this new reality as many other cities – such as Washington, D.C. and Boston – have done. We have an opportunity to improve our waterways and make them more accessible for future generations. I will work with the MWRD to identify federal resources to help make this change.”
Earlier today, the EPA notified the State of Illinois that water quality standards for portions of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers must be upgraded to protect the health and safety of people who recreate in these waterways. According to the EPA, these changes are necessary because an increasing number of people are coming into direct contact with the water through kayaking, canoeing, boating and jet and water skiing.
To attain the new water quality standards, the MWRD will be required to disinfect sewage discharged into the waterway system from its North Side and Calumet treatment plants. MWRD ceased disinfection at these facilities in the mid-1980s. In 2009, EPA made a similar determination under its Clean Water Act authority for a 28-mile portion of the Mississippi River near St. Louis.
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