Due to violations of the Clean Water Act, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago may be required to not only pay a fine but to enact a Green Infrastructure Program to help reduce storm water backup and sewage run-off.
After receiving complaints that raw sewage discharges were being found in combined sewage overflows (CSO) and Chicago waterways, MWRD could potentially be required to complete several remedial services by 2029 costing upwards of $3 billion, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District provides sewage treatment and wastewater services to Chicago and neighboring areas with seven total sewage treatment plants. Three sewage treatment plants serve the city of Chicago and 51 additional communities with combined sewer systems and CSOs.
The complaint noted several violations of the Clean Water Act
, including failure to provide primary treatment to disinfect the discharge into Chicago waters. The Clean Water Act regulates pollution discharges in U.S. waters by surveying surface water systems and made it illegal to discharge pollutants into any navigable waterway without a permit.
CSO overflows can be harmful to the water system and those exposed to the contaminated water. Bacteria and other pathogens as well as oxygen-demanding pollutants adversely affect aquatic and surrounding life.
In order to prevent more pollution from making it into Chicago area waters, MWRD will begin working on green solutions to the flooding and overflow problems. According to an article on the matter
, MWRD will be required to invest in "green rooftops, rain gardens, and other green infrastructure," so says the EPA's Region 5 Administrator, Susan Hedman. By doing so, residents most likely to be affected by flooding and sewage back-up will be better protected.
In accordance to the settlement, MWRD will also be required to remove debris from waters with skimmer boats and also implement an improved tunnel and reservoir plan for better management of floodwater and sewage overflow.
By enacting these changes not only in neighboring communities but in the city of Chicago as well, water quality will be improved and runoff and flooding will be reduced. And as a stipulation to the settlement, according to the EPA website, MWRD will need to not only address communities with pre-existing problems, but to create public participation initiatives so the members of the communities are encouraged to get out and help.
In the coming years, due to these changes, Chicago area residents will see healthier waters, fewer flooded basements, and less pollution. The proposed settlement, started on December 14, 2011, is allowing a 30-day comment period before the final court approval. Information on submitting a comment can be found on the Department of Justice website