This autumn the SUST 220 Water class at Roosevelt University has taken full advantage of the glorious weather by exploring Chicago’s waterways. SUST professor Michele Hoffman Trotter and class joined forces with Friends of the Chicago River for a memorable tour of the North Branch of the Chicago River. After putting in just south of Addison, the group paddled north almost all the way to Foster.
In addition to a fantastic array of native wildlife, the class had the opportunity to witness shoreline restoration work first hand, see and learn about input points to the Deep Tunnel, and discuss legal issues that swirl around the private docks along the river way. Without prompting, class members began hauling in garbage and comparing notes on odd finds that included a flip flop, fishing line, and a variety of beer cans.
It was a Chicago that few get to see and appreciate. As the Brown Line zipped by overhead, we wondered if its passengers saw the gaggle of geese that took flight in response to the grind of urban life whizzing by.
In order to better understand the issues that impact water quality in the Chicago River, SUST 220 also paid a visit to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s Stickney wastewater treatment plant a week later. It was not a coincidence that the canoe trip came first! Though the smell at Stickney is . . . special, it is incredible to note that while most wastewater treatment plants are designed to handle a million gallons at a time, Stickney has the capacity to manage over one billion gallons per day of wastewater and is still the largest treatment plant in the world (in terms of both area and volume of effluent treated).
Due to the sheer size of the grounds, students were transported by shuttle to the various treatment points across the property to learn about the staged process of wastewater treatment. After learning about the large scale filtration process, students were treated to a visit in the chemistry lab to hear about advanced testing that takes place, and how specific pollutants can impact the price that certain industries pay to have their wastewater treated. In the greenhouse students had the chance to see how solid waste materials can get converted into valuable compost materials.
Fall in Chicago is a beautiful time of year, and there is no better classroom than the one nature provides — just ask the crew in 220 Water!
This post (and outstanding photographs!) is by SUST adjunct professor Michele Hoffman Trotter, and marine biologist (science!) and photographer (art!) who is teaching our 220 Water class for the first time this Fall 2014 semester. See more of Michele’s photos from the North Branch canoe trip and the Stickney WTP tour.