A Green River Today, But What About Tomorrow?

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, a day when the Chicago River is dyed green. That is the greenest the river will be all year. Chicago is unique because of what it doesn’t do: fully disinfect its wastewater before pumping it into public waterways. “In virtually every other city in the nation,” Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Hawthorne wrote last year, “it would be illegal to pump out partially treated sewage teeming with the amount of disease-causing bacteria that churns endlessly into the Chicago River.”

On March 1, the Prairie Rivers Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club gave notice to the reclamation district, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Lisa Madigan, the Illinois attorney general of their intent to sue in order to spur the government to enforce the Clean Water Act’s provisions on the Chicago River. Time will tell what effect this has, and whether federal intervention is required to improve the condition of the river.


Professor Mike Bryson
has made the river a central aspect of his teaching at Roosevelt University, devoting assignments, field trips, and entire courses to the role of water in the Chicago area. This fall, he offers SUST 220 Water as a hybrid course meeting several Saturdays in Schaumburg and online, with select field trips. If you are interested in taking this or any of our courses this summer or fall, please contact your RU academic advisor for registration details. If you are not currently a Roosevelt University student, we encourage you to investigate our degree options, and our course listings. For more information, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email applyRU@roosevelt.edu.

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