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Durbin Asks State of Illinois to Comply with EPA Decision on Water Quality Standards for Chicago River

  • Written by Press Release
  • Category: Latest Local News

WASHINGTON, D.C.--(ENEWSPF)--May 19, 2011.  After a briefing yesterday from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Lisa Jackson, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to strengthen its water quality standards for the Chicago and Calumet Rivers as soon as possible. Yesterday, American Rivers – a national environmental group – named the Chicago River among the ten most endangered rivers in the country. The group estimates that sewage comprises roughly 70% of the water in Chicago River.

“We have an opportunity to save the Chicago River. A safe and healthy waterway will strengthen Chicago’s lakefront,” wrote Durbin. “I would ask the IEPA to comply with the request made the by the U.S. EPA and adopt more stringent water quality standards to reflect the potential for recreational activities in the Chicago Area Waterway System and Lower Des Plaines River.”

Last week, EPA Region V notified the State of Illinois that water quality standards for five segments of the Chicago and Calumet River must be upgraded to protect health and safety on the rivers. To attain this standard, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago will be required to disinfect sewage discharged into the waterway system from two treatment plants at Calumet and North Side. Every day, the MWRD releases 1.2 billion gallons of wastewater into the Chicago River. Chicago is the last major metropolitan area that does not disinfect its wastewater.

[Text of the letter below]

May 18, 2011

Lisa Bonnett

Interim Director

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

1021 North Grand Avenue East

Springfield, IL 62702

Dear Director Bonnett:

I urge the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen water quality standards for segments of the Chicago Area Waterway System and the Lower Des Plaines River expeditiously, as requested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a letter dated May 11th.

Federal regulations require states to adopt water quality standards that provide “for recreation in and on water,” unless recreational uses are found to be unattainable. The EPA’s recent evaluation of the Chicago Area Waterway System and Lower Des Plaines River found substantial evidence to suggest that recreational activities are already occurring in and on these waterways.

As you know, Chicago is the only major U.S. city that does not disinfect its sewage. This has had a significant impact on water quality in the Chicago River and its tributaries. American Rivers, a national environmental group, recently named the Chicago River among the ten most endangered rivers in the country, because of the threat posed by sewage waste. The group estimates that undisinfected wastewater comprises as much as 70 percent of the water in the Chicago River.

We have an opportunity to save the Chicago River. A safe and healthy waterway system will strengthen Chicago’s lakefront. I ask the Illinois EPA to comply with the request made the by the U.S. EPA and adopt more stringent water quality standards to reflect the potential for recreational activities in the Chicago Area Waterway System and Lower Des Plaines River.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin

Source durbin.senate.gov

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