Feds Want Swimmable Chicago River

Obama administration wrote letter to Illinois Pollution Control Board

Wednesday, Jun 2, 2010  |  Updated 10:45 AM CDT
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Chicago's Reality Connection

David Chiappe

Hoping you can use for Weather Photos! It is a picture of the boats on the Chicago River at the Michigan Avenue bridge today. Dave Chiappe | Tribune365 | Account Director | 435 N. Michigan Ave, 21st Floor, Chicago, IL 60611 Direct 312.222.4450 | Fax 312.527.8117|E-mail dchiappe@tribune.com [cid:image001.gif@01CAE6DB.5ACC5F90] [cid:image002.gif@01CAE6DB.5ACC5F90] [cid:image003.gif@01CAE6DB.5ACC5F90] [cid:image004.gif@01CAE6DB.5ACC5F90]

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Not many people are brave enough to take a dip in the Chicago River. That waterway is reserved for junk and Asian carp.

But the federal government wants to make the river clean enough for a swim.

In a letter filed with the Illinois Pollution Control Board, the Obama administration is calling for efforts to make the Chicago River safe enough for a dip.

The administration's position goes far beyond new water quality standards proposed by Illinois regulators. The state's plan would limit disease-causing bacteria in the river for the first time and require other steps to help fish thrive in its waters.

The letter was sent April 15.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District estimates it would cost taxpayers $623 million to disinfect wastewater from its three treatment plants. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency commissioned its own study that concluded the cost would be considerably less — about $242 million, or about $2 a month per household spread out over two decades. 

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