WBEZ | metropolitan wastewater reclamation district http://www.wbez.org/tags/metropolitan-wastewater-reclamation-district Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en In Cincinnati, unearthing an old river instead of digging Deep Tunnel http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/cincinnati-unearthing-old-river-instead-digging-deep-tunnel-107548 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lick%20run%20west.JPG" style="height: 457px; width: 610px;" title="The Lick Run project's Headwaters Gateway District, one of many proposed green infrastructure investments aimed at addressing both blight and combined sewer overflows. (Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati)" /></div><p>Rust, population loss and billions of gallons of sewage overflows &mdash; Cincinnati&rsquo;s South Fairmount neighborhood can now count at least one of these former challenges as an economic opportunity.</p><p>A plan to repurpose about 30 acres of brownfields and vacant lots into one of the nation&rsquo;s boldest experiments in green infrastructure <a href="http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/12e8a727953bad4f85257b7f00548201?OpenDocument" target="_blank">won the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency</a> Monday.</p><p>It is an innovative solution to a common problem throughout the Midwest, where many cities, including Chicago, have combined sewer systems that collect stormwater runoff and sewage in the same pipe. The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati will unearth a mile-long portion of a buried stream called Lick Run, which will absorb 1.5 billion gallons of stormwater each year.</p><p>When stormwater overburdens the traditional pipework of a combined sewer system, it forces <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731" target="_blank">a spillover of raw sewage and wastewater in what is known as a combined sewer overflow</a>. In a 2006 consent decree, the EPA ordered Cincinnati to reduce its combined sewer overflows, the nation&rsquo;s fifth worst, by 85 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;We have an opportunity. Instead of building a lot of larger pipes, or larger pump stations, or storage facilities,&rdquo; said Tony Parrott, MSD&rsquo;s executive director, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/embed/kEC4QGA1IVs">in a video about the project</a>, &ldquo;we can offload stormwater by creating some type of amenity that will address the consent decree goal but also bring some type of value to the communities. And it&rsquo;s less expensive.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lick%20run%20Queen%20City%20Ave.%20at%20Beekman%20looking%20SW.JPG" style="height: 457px; width: 610px;" title="(Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati)" /></div><p>Penned in by concrete, Mill Creek runs along the side of South Fairmount and into downtown Cincinnati. The lower Mill Creek phase of MSD&rsquo;s consent decree reductions calls for a 2 billion gallon reduction in combined sewer overflows by 2018. Instead of relying only on massive pipes, MSD will rehabilitate several watersheds to help control stormwater during wet weather. Along the Lick Run portion of Mill Creek, the resulting &quot;open space corridor&quot; could put to use vacant properties, which make up almost one third of all housing units in the neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;The Lick Run project is a valley conveyance system,&rdquo; said MaryLynn Lodor, MSD&rsquo;s environmental programs manager. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an innovative way to convey stormwater through a system that is engineered, but it might look like or mimic a natural system.&rdquo;</p><p>The &ldquo;grey&rdquo; infrastructure alternative to exposing Lick Run and using it as a stormwater basin would necessitate new pipes 25 feet wide <a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fprojectgroundwork.org%2Fdownloads%2Flowermillcreek%2FLMCPR_Report_Summary.pdf">at a total cost of about $312 million</a>, or about $117 million more than it will cost to create the Lick Run watershed.</p><p>That would put Cincinnati in the realm of Chicago&rsquo;s Tunnel and Reservoir Program, also known as Deep Tunnel. More than 35 years and $4 billion dollars into the project, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has built hundreds of miles of tunnels, some 30 feet wide and 300 feet underground.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34610267@N05/8960343931/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/calumet-tarp-room610px.jpg" title="A pump room deep underground at the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley) " /></a></div><p>But the massive Thornton and McCook reservoirs won&rsquo;t be online until 2015 and 2017 respectively, and completion of the entire system isn&rsquo;t expected until 2029. In the meantime the partially complete system <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731">continues to overflow</a> and, as Michael Hawthorne reported for the <em>Chicago Tribune</em>, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-21/news/ct-met-deep-tunnel-climate-change-20110420_1_climate-change-sewers-deep-tunnel-project">climate change could exacerbate flooding problems just as Deep Tunnel goes fully online</a>. In April flooding in Des Plaines was the worst seen there since the nearby USGS gauge in Riverside began collecting data 70 years ago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/thornton-res.jpg" title="Massive tunnels loom at the bottom of the Thornton Quarry, soon to be a TARP reservoir. Hundreds of trucks still haul stone from the quarry every day. They will finish mining this year. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>Chicago has made headway with its sustainable streets program, building porous streets and alleyways, but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-21/heavy-rains-put-extra-pressure-deep-tunnel-88107">some have called for a more comprehensive investment in green infrastructure</a>. The city&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/green-belt-envisioned-south-side-103970">Green Healthy Neighborhoods initiative</a> aims for green infrastructure planning on the neighborhood scale, with vacant lots serving as bioswales or other elements of what the plan calls &ldquo;productive landscapes.&rdquo; Chicago&#39;s neighborhoods don&#39;t have the hills and valleys that help along Cincinnati&#39;s stormwater planning with projects like Lick Run, but the cities share similar challenges.</p><p>South Fairmount&rsquo;s brownfields, abandonment and historic disinvestment are not foreign problems to many Chicago neighborhoods, which could benefit from flood control both as a means to beautify blighted areas and as an economic investment.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.projectgroundwork.org/downloads/lickrun/lick_run_master_plan.pdf" target="_blank">Read the master plan here</a> [PDF], and watch a video about the project here:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/kEC4QGA1IVs" width="610"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 05 Jun 2013 11:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/cincinnati-unearthing-old-river-instead-digging-deep-tunnel-107548 Report: Drop money in the river, watch it float back http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/report-drop-money-river-watch-it-float-back-107107 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vxla/4748458373/lightbox/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/river%20by%20vxla.jpg" style="height: 405px; width: 610px;" title="(vxla via Flickr)" /></a></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F91454655" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The glitzy towers of downtown Chicago are filled with offices that boast impressive financial returns, but their biggest cash flow may be one they all share: the Chicago River.</p><p><a href="http://www.chicagoriver.org/upload/Summary%20Review%20Doc%20SMALLER.pdf">A new report commissioned by Friends of the Chicago River and Openlands</a> says each dollar invested in the river provides a 70 percent return. Completed, planned and proposed improvement projects, the report says, amount to 846 new permanent jobs, 52,400 construction jobs and $130.54 million every year.</p><p>&ldquo;Investing in the Chicago River pays us back,&rdquo; said Lenore Beyer-Clow, policy director for Openlands.</p><p>Friends of the Chicago River, which began as a project of Openlands, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-what%E2%80%99s-bottom-chicago-river-102651">has championed the once neglected river</a> since it was a &ldquo;back alleyway full of sewage and trash,&rdquo; in the words of the new report. Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have both called attention to the resource, most recently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-plans-extend-chicago-riverwalk-102965">when Emanuel announced a plan to expand the city&rsquo;s Riverwalk by six blocks</a>. But Margaret Frisbie, the group&rsquo;s executive director, said despite recent progress most people still don&rsquo;t appreciate the full benefits of investing in the river.</p><p>The report looked at four major completed or planned projects involving the river over the last 30 years: the deep tunnel stormwater project TARP; disinfection of wastewater at three area treatment plants; $500 million worth of green infrastructure investment citywide over 15 years; and $93 million in projects by the City of Chicago and Chicago Park District.</p><p>The benefits came in the form of additional business income, tax revenue and jobs, but also avoided flood damage and sewage treatment costs. Investing in the river boots property values along its shores, too.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift-steve-edwards/2012-05-31/33-wolf-point-development-fire-union-negotiations">Wolf Point</a> and River Point are among the high-profile riverside developments in the portfolio of real estate firm Hines Interests.</p><p>&ldquo;Why are we focused on real estate along the river?&rdquo; asked Greg Van Schaak, senior managing director for Hines. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very simple: it&rsquo;s more valuable.&rdquo; Van Schaak said whereas rent in most towers varies by floor, buildings along the river retain the same value from the first floor through the fiftieth.</p><p>Van Schaak added that most of the major companies &mdash; Boeing, MillerCoors, BP &mdash; who recently opened offices in Chicago did so in riverfront buildings. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s an accident,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Money talks, but it&rsquo;s impossible to neatly quantify many of the benefits that natural systems provide. That may make it difficult to invest strategically even when all parties agree on the overarching value of a natural resource like the Chicago River.</p><p>&ldquo;There are all these ancillary benefits to green infrastructure that aren&rsquo;t quantified when you only look at economic returns,&rdquo; said Debra Shore, an MWRD commissioner. Environmental benefits like carbon sequestration, soil retention and fresh air are valuable too, Shore said, but don&rsquo;t yet appear on the ledger of an economic analysis.</p></p> Thu, 09 May 2013 15:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/report-drop-money-river-watch-it-float-back-107107 Heavy rain overwhelms combined sewer system http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://www.mwrd.org/irj/portal/anonymous?NavigationTarget=navurl://eec9b2f677d42e0dea742ba5e2b45713" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cso%20april%2018.png" style="height: 700px; width: 610px;" title="The red shows unconfirmed combined sewer overflows on April 18. (Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District of Greater Chicago)" /></a></div><p>Inundated by nearly 5 inches of rain in less than 36 hours, Chicago water officials have <a href="../../news/rain-causes-flooding-delays-and-sinkhole-106711">had to &quot;re-reverse&quot; the flow of the Chicago River</a>, opening the large gates that separate Lake Michigan from the river to relieve pressure on a sewer system swollen with runoff and waste.</p><p>As <em>Chicago Magazine</em>&rsquo;s Whet Moser reported, <a href="http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/April-2013/Chicagos-Torrential-Rains-Fill-Deep-Tunnel-Burst-Water-Mains/">the deluge has easily outpaced recent upgrades to the city&#39;s water and sewage infrastructure</a>. Michael Hawthorne of the <em>Chicago Tribune </em><a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-12-15/news/ct-met-chicago-river-sewage-overflows-20111215_1_deep-tunnel-flood-and-pollution-control-project-green-infrastructure-projects">reported in 2011 that Lake Michigan had been hit with more sewage in recent years than the previous two decades combined</a>.</p><p>The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District said Thursday that its 109-mile network of tunnels and reservoirs was 100 percent full. The Mainstream Tunnel was full by 12:31 a.m., while the Des Plaines Tunnel filled up at 3:30 a.m. Built to contain 2.3 billion gallons, the system hit capacity and poured enough stormwater and sewage into Chicago-area waterways to help raise their levels higher than Lake Michigan. Following protocol, MWRD tried to relieve some of that pressure by dumping the tainted water into the lake.</p><p>Contaminants can spread <a href="http://www.greatlakesmapping.org/great_lake_stressors/7/combined-sewer-overflows">kilometers away from shore</a>. MWRD has asked residents to minimize their water use to help ease the strain on the heavily burdened system. Not that it&#39;s a great day for a swim, anyway, but you might not want to hit the beach, either.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.greatlakesmapping.org/great_lake_stressors/7/combined-sewer-overflows" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CSOs%20great%20lakes%20map%20GLEAM.jpg" style="height: 471px; width: 610px;" title="Combined sewer overflows across the Great Lakes. (Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project)" /></a></div><p>Chicago&rsquo;s sewer problems may be stark, but they are not unique. <a href="http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/cso/cpolicy_report2004.cfm">A 2004 EPA report to Congress</a> found Chicago&rsquo;s overflows plagued mainly by bacteria, while the city of Toledo, Ohio suffered pollution from copper, lead, silver and zinc. Water samples taken near Toledo&#39;s sewer outfalls showed effects of chronic toxicity. A 2010 <a href="http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/Reports/Archive/2010/Turning-The-Tide-Great-Lakes-Sewage.aspx">study by the National Wildlife Federation</a> found cities around the Great Lakes discharged 41 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the lakes in 2009, with Chicago and Detroit leading the way.</p><p>There has been some progress. Detroit has decreased sewer overflows by 80 percent below 1995 levels by adding capacity, but had to back off its own deep tunnel project in 2009 <a href="http://www.tunneltalk.com/Detroit-outfall-Apr09-Detroit-outfall-contract-terminated.php">due to lack of funding</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s waterways have cleared up, too, but face a murky future. The total number of fish species found in the Chicago and Calumet river system <a href="http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/csossoRTC2004_chapter05.pdf">increased six-fold between 1974, around the time that MWRD upgraded their facilities, and 2001</a>. But the Deep Tunnel project originally meant to help the system avoid overflows <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-21/news/ct-met-deep-tunnel-climate-change-20110420_1_climate-change-sewers-deep-tunnel-project">won&rsquo;t be complete until 2029, and may still be inadequate</a> in the face of <a href="www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174">floods pumped up by climate change</a>.</p></p> Thu, 18 Apr 2013 16:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/heavy-rain-overwhelms-combined-sewer-system-106731