Sewage and Rainwater Overflow

Identify an environmental policy or regulation in place in Chicago:

Blocking Rainwater and Preventing Sewer Backup

What is its purpose and what issues prompted the rule to be put into effect in the first place?

The Chicago river is notoriously dirty. The sewage piping was not adequate to store the amount of rainfall and the sewage caused by this. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) manages this issue. By introducing the Tunnel and Reservoir System Plan (TARP), they were able to hold and store the rainwater and other sewage runoff until the plants were able to process the amount in smaller doses.

Has it been productive? If yes, in what ways? If not, what can be done to encourage people to abide by these regulations?

This has proven to be an effective system. With nearly 10 billion gallons of capacity to store rain water, the system has prevented most possible sewage overflows since 1980. By storing the excess waste, it is contained and separate from polluting the natural environment. It also allows the plant to fully process and treat the waste in smaller quantities. They are looking to expand the system to 18 billion gallons of storage space. This is to accommodate for growing population; however, I am curious if there are other more natural ways to filter and store our rainwater overflow and sewage overflow. MIT has identified some marsh grasses that filter out the toxins and remove them from circulation. They have planted these fields to clean the canals in the Pontine Marshes just south of Rome. If you’re interested in more on this specific project, I have included the source below. I believe this is a worthwhile alternative to invest time in.


Stormwater and sewer overflows – policy – issues – friends of the chicago river (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 17 November 2016).

Dizikes, P. and Office, M.N. (2010) Using plants to purify canal water. Available at: (Accessed: 17 November 2016).

City of chicago: Blocking rainwater and preventing sewer backup (2010) Available at: (Accessed: 17 November 2016).


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