Photo Friday: Re-reversing the Chicago River


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(Photos by Lloyd DeGrane, Alliance for the Great Lakes)

The course of the Chicago River, reversed over a century ago by the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to prevent the flow of waste water into Lake Michigan, was re-reversed April 18 to alleviate flooding in the city in the wake of serious storm conditions, according to an Associated Press report. These photos show dark stormwater and untreated waste water flowing into the lighter waters of Lake Michigan, according to the Chicagoist, a popular news blog for the Chicago area.

Echo has previously reported on the increasing frequency of urban flooding problems in Chicago and the Midwest.

8 thoughts on “Photo Friday: Re-reversing the Chicago River

  1. BP’s Indiana oil refinery discharges pollutants directly into Lake Michigan on a continuous basis. The Indiana state regulators even gave them permission to INCREASE the quantities until the EPA finally stepped in. I thought Chicago’s Deep Tunnel project was supposed to put an end to this problem?

  2. Charlie, you hit the nail on the head,no pun intended. If I was caught by the Coasties or Harbor Patrol taking a leak off of the transom, I’d probably be jailed and fined an amount that would help reduce the national debt.

  3. From what I understand the city of Milwaukee discharges effluent full of e- coli bacteria on a regular basis in to Lake Michigan, forcing the closure of local beaches for much of the swimming season. The city refuses to upgrade its discharge system to alleviate the problem, citing the lack of funding. Considering that Wisconsin touts its natural beauty and emphasis on recreation, it’s shameful to watch the lawmakers and residents do nothing while they continue to pollute our area’s greatest resource.
    Okay, I live in Illinois… :-) just saying…

  4. I live in LaPorte IN. We have a waste disposal plant. We send nothing to creeks and rivers for someone else to contend with. Chicago should do the same. They should keep their crap out of our lake. They should also quit using Lake Michigan to flush it down stream.
    By the way I also have a house on the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks for your waste. We have enough of a problem with BP.

  5. In May 2004, the City of Milwaukee, by their own admission, dumped 1.7 billion gallons of raw sewage into Lake Michigan. This is equal to 1,000 plastic jugs of sewage for every Greater Milwaukee resident.

    Every city on the lake feels free to dump sewage when their inadequate sewage treatment facilities get overwhelmed.

    And yet the Coast Guard mandates that every boat with a head must have a holding tank to contain and carry its sewage for later disposal.

    Fines are imposed on each boater who fails to do so.

    The City of Chicago, home to the world’s largest municipal harbor system, inspects each boat in the harbor system every year for holding tank compliance.

    Fines are imposed for non compliance.

    Why doesn’t the Coast Guard levy the proportionate appropriate fine on cities that pollute the lake? I mean BIG ones. Ones that would make it cheaper to build proper facilities rather than pay the fines….

  6. Grow up everyone. This is no different than any other river running into any of the great lakes. So it either overflows the waste treatment plants and goes one way or the other. If the Chicago River had never been reversed in the first place, we wouldn’t know any better. We can’t help what mother nature does when it rains like it has been. Everything works fine until an unusual amount of rain. And by the way, just because the water is darker coming out of the river does not make it polluted. Rivers have bottom sediment in them.

  7. Under normal conditions Chicago’s waste water over flow does not drain to Lake Michigan. It goes down the Chicago River to the Mississippi and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico.

    That’s why many refer to the Chicago River as an “open sewer.”

    But in extreme weather like we had last week the river can’t accommodate the volume and in Lake Michigan it goes.

    Chicago is no better or worse than other cities when it comes to sewage dumping. It’s just that most of the waste is sent to St. Louis.

    Gary Wilson

  8. Chicago does get a bad wrap for using Lake Michigan for waste water. As they should in most cases. But if you look at almost any port river flowing into Lake Michigan, such as the Black River in S. Haven, they all have a much darker waters flowing into the blue water of the Great Lakes. Probably all from sediment, storm water and waste water. Chicago just produces so much more waste then any other city on the Great Lakes…

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