Warning: Clean Up Your Rivers, or Else

May 16, 2011

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter to state officials in Illinois. Its message: Clean up the Chicago and Calumet Rivers. Now.

The letter states that those rivers must be upgraded to protect the health and safety of the people who use them for activities like kayaking, canoeing, boating, swimming, jet and water skiing and more.

The EPA, which has been recommending that Illinois upgrade its water quality standards for the waterway system since 2007, is now demanding action, calling for the Illinois Pollution Control Board to adopt new or revised water quality standards immediately.

people kayaking down the Chicago River

The EPA wants the Chicago and Calumet Rivers cleaner so we can use them.

If the state does not comply, the EPA could do the work on its own and then fine the state.

Either way, Chicago homeowners and those in suburban Cook County could end up paying more in sewer bills.

On the bright side, our current costs for treating waste are among the lowest in the country.

“The Clean Water Act requires water quality standards that protect people who use the river,” said U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. “A decade of investments in walkways, boat ramps and parks has provided people with access to the water — and now we need to make sure that the water is safe.”

The locations where the EPA is calling for work to be done:

*North Branch of the Chicago River from its confluence with the North Shore Channel to its confluence with the South Branch

*South Branch of the Chicago River

*North Shore Channel, excluding the segment extending from the North Side Sewage Treatment Works to Lake Michigan

*Calumet-Sag Channel

*Little Calumet River from its junction with the Grand Calumet River to the Calumet-Sag Channel

“The Chicago and Calumet Rivers are incredibly valuable resources to area residents and visitors, and clean water is vital to people’s health and the local economy,” said acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner.

“Restoring and protecting urban waterways is a priority for EPA because it revitalizes communities, boosts local businesses, and creates jobs and a healthier environment for people.”

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