EPA Orders Chicago, Calumet Rivers Cleaned

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an order to Illinois to make the rivers clean enough to swim in

By Lisa Balde
|  Thursday, May 12, 2011  |  Updated 8:09 AM CDT
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EPA Orders Chicago, Calumet Rivers Cleaned

Monika Thorpe, Flickr

Ever swim in the Chicago or Calumet Rivers?

You should be able to once an order is completed from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean large portions of the rivers.

After recommending for years that Illinois upgrade its quality standards for the waterway system, the EPA issued a warning Thursday to Illinois and the state's Pollution Control Board to meet new standards and make the rivers safe enough for people to swim in them.

"The changes are necessary because an increasing number of people are coming into direct contact with the water through boating, jet and water skiing and other forms of recreation," an EPA statement reads.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago likely will be required to disinfect sewage that's discharged into the waterway system from the North Side and Calumet treatment plants, according to the EPA. Disinfection was stopped at those plants in the mid-1980s, the agency says. 

Thanks to river walks and boat ramps put in place over the years to enhance the rivers, more people are using them.

"We need to make sure that the water is safe,” said U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board has been ordered to "promptly" adopt new water quality standards for the North and South branches of the Chicago River, the North Shore Channel, the Cal-Sag Channel and the Little Calumet River. 

If that doesn't happen, the U.S. EPA will do it for them.

In 2009, U.S. EPA made a similar request for a 28-mile portion of the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

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