Cleaning the Chicago River

Last summer, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District made history when it voted to disinfect wastewater dumped in the Chicago River. One year later, work continues to make the river one people can safely swim and fish in.

Serious efforts are underway to try to clean up the Chicago River so people can actually swim and fish in it without having to worry about getting sick. Illinois Governor Quinn has pledged to add $10 million to the $21 million fund to disinfect sewage going into the river. City and state officials actually have plans to make the river a showpiece with walking and bike paths, where it once was considered by many to be a metropolitan toilet, associated with sewage and stink….

An exhibition entitled “Waterline” shows what the Chicago River’s South Branch from Wolf Point to Pilsen could look like under different redevelopment scenarios. The exhibition is the work of a dozen Harvard University graduate design students working with Skidmore Owings & Merrill Urban Design Partner Philip Enquist. You can see it at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum this summer.

The reversal of the Chicago River more than a century ago led to a flurry of litigation that remains relevant today.  Professor Mike Bryson cover the consequences of the engineering feat in SUST 220 Water this fall.  If you are interested in enrolling, find out more by visiting our Sustainability Studies website, calling 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or emailing

This entry was posted in courses, news, waste, water. Bookmark the permalink.