One of the most pressing issues to me in the Chicago area is its near reckless policy of waste water management. Chicago has what’s called a combined sewer system, this means that sewers for both storm water runoff and waste water from human use is combined in the same sewer when being directed to a waste water treatment plant. All water is treated before release into the lake or river; this may seem like a good thing in the sense that both storm water and sewage is treated, unlike coastal cities where storm water is directed directly into the ocean untreated. However, the combined sewer system is far more detrimental as in the event of a major storm when, according to the City of Chicago, pours at least 1.5’’ in under an hour, then the sewer system will over flow and discharge raw sewage into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
This is not only a major concern for the environment but for public health as well as most of the Chicago region gets its water supply from Lake Michigan. Our main water source being tainted with raw sewage puts our water quality at risk and subsequently the health of all residents. Currently under construction is the Deep Tunnel Project, set to store some of the unwanted discharge during a storm, but completion is not until decades away while the environment around us continues to degrade. Most surprising is the allowing of kayaking in the river even after a sewer discharge. The City of Chicago and Cook County needs to address this situation with the concern that it needs. It is beyond my comprehension as to why both the federal and local governments choose to dismiss this. An immediate diversion is necessary in order to keep our water supply clean and our environmental impact minimal. Barney Cohen writes in “Technology in Society,” about developing nations and the potential for sustainable growth, it is important to acknowledge the mistakes developed cities like Chicago have made, such as the combined sewer, so that developing ones can avoid such problems in the near future.
Burko, Casey. “Deep Tunnel Opens.” Chicago Tribune. April, 2011.
City of Chicago. “Combined Sewers.” Department of Buildings. 2010.
Cohen, Barney. “Urbanization in developing countries: Current trends, future projections, and key challenges for sustainability.” Technology In Society. Elsevier, Washington, D.C. 2006