US EPA Demands Broad Cleanup of Chicago River

Back in March, we summarized recent pollution debates concerning the Chicago River, a body of water which came under scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Agency in the past couple of years.   Yesterday, the US EPA issued a letter to the interim director of the Illinois EPA demanding a broad cleanup of the river. (Link to PDF).

The letter says, in part:

During the past 25 years, the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) has been transformed into a valuable recreational asset that citizens increasingly use for boating, canoeing, kayaking, jet and water skiing, tubing and swimming. The State of Illinois is long overdue on updating its water quality standards to provide the Clean Water Act (CWA) protections that must accompany this transformation. Consequently, the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that new or revised water quality standards that protect recreation in and on the water are necessary for certain segments of the CAWS. EPA expects Illinois to expeditiously adopt new or revised water quality standards consistent with this determination. If Illinois fails to do so, EPA will do so itself. In either event, to attain those standards, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago would likely be required to disinfect discharges from its North Side and Calumet Water Reclamation Plants.

Read the PDF for the full nine pages of changes the US EPA is directing.  The overall policy goal is a significant departure from the ways in which the Chicago River has been managed for over a century.

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

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