WBEZ | Metropolitan Water Reclamation District http://www.wbez.org/tags/metropolitan-water-reclamation-district Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Six tunnels hidden under Chicago’s Loop http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/six-tunnels-hidden-under-chicago%E2%80%99s-loop-107791 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/tunnels/index.html" target="_blank"><img a="" alt="" below="" class="image-original_image" download="" file="" fit="" for="" get="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CCTunnels new topper.jpg" the="" title="Drawings by Erik Nelson Rodriguez of the Illustrated Press. Click on the picture above for a full-sized graphic or click &quot;Download the graphic!&quot; below to get a file fit for printing!" to="" /></a></div></div></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F97891205&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Karri DeSelm works in the JW Marriott Building, on the corner of LaSalle and Adams in downtown Chicago. Her building, the last designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham, was completed in 1914, and underwent major renovations two years ago. Karri says that at the time, her boss told her that she had been down deep into the building&rsquo;s basement, where she had seen the entrance to a secret tunnel that ran underneath the Loop.</p><p>That got Karri wondering:</p><blockquote><p><em>&ldquo;I have heard there is a network of layered tunnels under the city. Is this true, and if so, what was the purpose of the tunnels when they were designed and built?&rdquo;</em></p></blockquote><p>For starters, it&rsquo;s true &mdash; there <em>are</em> many tunnels underneath the Loop. We found no fewer than <em>six different sets of tunnels</em>, including the tunnels connected to Karri&rsquo;s building.</p><p>Each of the tunnels we found was at some point, or continues to be, a critical part of Chicago&rsquo;s infrastructure. The city would be lost without these tunnels. Sometimes they&rsquo;re hidden, and sometimes they&rsquo;re just overlooked, taken for granted by the people who walk above them. But trust us &mdash; 2.8 million people would notice the tunnels&rsquo; absence because they&rsquo;d have no reliable source of clean tap water, no flood control and no crosstown &ldquo;L&rdquo; service in the Loop.</p><p>And the tunnels that aren&rsquo;t still in use are more than just odd architectural remnants or historical curiosities. They may be obscured from sight and from memory (or even sealed off), but they&rsquo;re still an important part of the city&rsquo;s built environment. As one source put it, we ignore the tunnels at our own peril. When we erect new buildings downtown, we do so in a densely layered maze of infrastructure, both old and new.</p><p>To help wrap our heads around Karri&rsquo;s question, we worked with Erik N. Rodriguez of <a href="http://illuspress.com/">The Illustrated Press</a>. Based on our reporting, he created the graphic above, which shows six different kinds of tunnels, how deep underground they are and how they&rsquo;re situated relative to one another. Note, though, that the drawing is a composite; it shows what can be found at different depths across the Loop, but not necessarily beneath any single street address.</p><p><strong>1. The Pedway</strong></p><p>File Chicago&rsquo;s Pedway under tunnels you may not know you know. You may have seen the system&rsquo;s distinctive black and gold compass logo marking the entryways of skyscrapers downtown without knowing what they signified.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-1.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />Short for &ldquo;pedestrian walkway,&rdquo; this maze-like system of semi-public hallways connects the basements of more than 50 Loop buildings, including municipal buildings like City Hall and the Thompson Center, shopping centers like Macy&rsquo;s and Block 37, and a few newer residential buildings, like the hypermodern Aqua tower. The Pedway also snakes through two CTA stations, a Metra station and several underground parking garages along Michigan Avenue.</p><p>Although the Pedway provides a climate-controlled alternative to Chicago&rsquo;s sidewalks, it&rsquo;s more than just a thoroughfare. Under its fluorescent lights and beige ceiling tiles you can get your haircut, get a clock fixed, grab coffee, shop for a blender or order new license plates.</p><p>Perhaps that&rsquo;s why Amanda Scotese offers walking tours of the Pedway through <a href="http://www.chicagodetours.com/">Chicago Detours</a>, her unconventional tourism company. As Scotese&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.chicagodetours.com/images/chicago-pedway-map-detours.pdf">carefully researched Pedway map</a> illustrates, this system of tunnels is a disconnected mishmash. Although the Chicago Department of Transportation technically oversees the Pedway, many sections are owned by other government entities, while still others are privately owned and controlled by the management of whatever building they pass underneath.</p><p>Case in point: During a recent afternoon rush hour visit to the Pedway, Scotese, our question-asker Karri and I were stymied by a section of the Pedway under City Hall that closed promptly at 5 p.m.</p><p><strong>2. CTA tunnels</strong></p><p>File these tunnels under those you probably take for granted. Although the city prides itself on its extensive network of elevated trains, two downtown subway tunnels also move commuters through the Loop. These tunnels are now owned and operated by the CTA, and in 2012, the combined &ldquo;L&rdquo; stops inside the two tunnels <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/ridership_reports/2012-Annual.pdf">served an average</a> of 82,343 passengers every weekday.&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-2.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />The first tunnel runs beneath State Street and serves the Red Line. The second goes under Dearborn Street and Milwaukee Avenue and serves the Blue Line.</p><p>The city began digging the two subway tunnels in 1938, with the help of money from FDR&rsquo;s New Deal and the Works Progress Administration.</p><p>Meant to accommodate crosstown &ldquo;L&rdquo; traffic, which could become snarled in the Loop, the tunnels range from 20 to 60 feet underground. Steel and concrete tubes 200 feet long housed the tunnels as they passed under the Chicago River.</p><p>As was the case with previous public works, the opening of the State Street subway tunnel in 1943 was cause for celebration: The curators of the transit history site <a href="http://www.chicago-l.org/">Chicago L</a> <a href="http://www.chicago-l.org/operations/lines/state_subway.html">describe the festivities</a> this way:</p><blockquote><p><em>Between 10:25 and 10:45 a.m., ten special trains arrived at State and Madison to unload their passengers. At 10:47 a.m., Mayor Kelly cut a ceremonial red, white, and blue ribbon strung across the northbound track, officially giving the new subway to the city.</em></p></blockquote><p>The Dearborn Street tunnel, delayed by World War II, was completed in 1951.</p><p><strong>3. Freight tunnels</strong></p><p>Of all the tunnels under the Loop, the 60 miles of freight tunnels 40 feet underground are the most extensive. They also happen to be unique to Chicago.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-3.jpg" style="height: 200px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="" />Dug by a private company between 1899 and 1906, these tunnels were meant to hide many miles of telephone cable. But transit historian Bruce Moffat says that somewhere during the construction process &ldquo;the company&rsquo;s promoters decided to build very large conduits &mdash; large enough for freight trains.&rdquo;</p><p>Tiny freight trains, that is. The tunnels were only seven feet tall and horseshoe-shaped, with concrete walls and tracks running along the floor. Meaning ... these freight cars were no bigger than small dumpsters.</p><p>This literal underground railroad delivered coal and freight to the sub-basements of prominent buildings in the Loop: City Hall, the Tribune Tower, the Merchandise Mart and dozens more.</p><p>The tunnels stretched from 16th Street to River North and the Field Museum. Remarkably, the tunnel system followed the street grid above so, to this day, you can navigate the freight tunnels using an ordinary Chicago street map.</p><p>That is if you could get inside. Most of the tunnel entrances were sealed in 1992, after a construction crew driving pilings into the Chicago River punctured the tunnels, flooding them and the buildings to which they were connected.</p><p><strong>4. Cable car tunnels</strong></p><p>Between 1882 and 1906 it was the cable car network, not the &ldquo;L,&rdquo; that served as Chicago&rsquo;s main form of public transit. In fact, Chicago&rsquo;s cable car system was once the largest and most profitable of its kind.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-4.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />The technology that powered cable cars &mdash; a single, continuous underground cable &mdash; wasn&rsquo;t compatible with the drawbridges that carried most other traffic over the Chicago River. Tunnels, though, could extend cable car service beyond the Loop to the city&rsquo;s North and West Sides.</p><p>The first two cable car tunnels made West Side service possible via Washington Street and North Side service possible via LaSalle. These tunnels were expanded from remnants of pedestrian and wagon tunnels dug at the same locations in 1869 and 1871. In fact, just a few months after it opened, the LaSalle Street tunnel served as a major escape route during the Great Chicago Fire.</p><p>Sitting 60 feet below ground, these new cable car tunnels were deeper than their predecessors, but they also happened to be steeper. The new tunnels had a 12 percent grade &mdash; three times the rise of today&rsquo;s CTA trains.&nbsp;</p><p>A private company built a third cable car tunnel between Van Buren and Jackson Streets in 1894. All three tunnels were later adapted for electric street cars, which replaced cable cars beginning in 1906.</p><p>But both means of transit ultimately fell out of use. When the &ldquo;L&rdquo; became ascendant the cable car tunnels were abandoned and sealed.&nbsp;</p><p>They&rsquo;re still there, though, and there&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/search-chicago%E2%80%99s-abandoned-cable-car-tunnels-107715">plenty more to read about their remnants</a>.</p><p><strong>5. Water tunnels</strong></p><p>In 1867 Chicago built an intake crib two miles out in Lake Michigan to collect fresh drinking water for the growing city. Earlier efforts to collect water closer to shore had failed. If this fact inspires a big yawn from you, consider that at this point the city was still dumping sewage into the Chicago River, which fed directly into the lake.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-5.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />This new crib fed water to the Pumping Station at Chicago and Michigan Avenues via a five foot tall, oval-shaped, brick-lined tunnel more than 10,000 feet long. At the time it was considered an engineering marvel. The crib-and-tunnel solution to water collection proved effective enough that Chicago built seven more intake cribs before 1935.</p><p>Those intake tunnels now feed through the city&rsquo;s two filtration plants, but at least one tunnel was taken out of service and sealed when a portion of it collapsed near Lake Shore Drive in 1998. Officials also shut down portions of the drive during repairs, fearing the collapse might be a hazard for motorists.</p><p>But the city is tight-lipped about what other parts of this infrastructure remain in use. We wanted to know where the remaining tunnels are located and how deep underground they are, but the Department of Water Management denied our request.</p><p>Tom LaPorte, the department&rsquo;s spokesperson and Assistant Commissioner, said the department feared such information might make the city&rsquo;s water infrastructure more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re the world&rsquo;s largest water treatment facility,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Anything that&rsquo;s going to put us at risk we&rsquo;re not going to do, even for WBEZ.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>6. The Deep Tunnel</strong></p><p>The Deep Tunnel is rarely referred to by its full name, the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP). But its nickname is apt; at a maximum depth of 350 feet it&rsquo;s the deepest of the six sets of tunnels we&rsquo;re treating here. When Chicago&rsquo;s freight tunnels flooded in 1992, the water was drained into here.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CuriousCityTunnelsThumbs-6.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="" />This network of giant overflow sewers was built to prevent flooding and cut pollution in the region&rsquo;s waterways. When heavy storms hit the Chicago area, excess rainwater funnels into the Deep Tunnel system rather than into the lake.</p><p>The tunnels&rsquo; depth is not the project&rsquo;s only stunning statistic. As <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_and_Reservoir_Plan">one writer</a> put it, &ldquo;the mega-project is one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in terms of scope, cost and timeframe.&rdquo;</p><p>Phase 1 construction, a network of nearly 110 miles of tunnels designed to store 2.3 billion gallons of water, began in 1975 and was not completed until 2006. Three enormous reservoirs, designed to store an additional 14.8 billion gallons of water, are set to be completed by 2029.</p><p>The Deep Tunnel&rsquo;s operator, The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, kindly offered us a tour of the project&rsquo;s south suburban pumping station, which, they told us, has a main chamber &ldquo;the size of two NBA basketball courts.&rdquo;</p><p>We declined their offer, but only for now. Curious City receives so many different questions about the Deep Tunnel and its economic and environmental impact that we&rsquo;re planning a separate story for later this summer digging into that.</p><p><strong>Tunnels aplenty, but running out of space</strong></p><p>So Chicago is chock full of tunnels, at least downtown. There are other tunnels, too, in other parts of the city. Since I&rsquo;ve started my reporting I&rsquo;ve had sources regale me with tales of industrial tunnels that connect factories in Bridgeport, and listeners write in with tidbits about a tunnel that might run under Midway Airport.</p><p>But is the time for tunnels over in this city? Or could we see the construction of new tunnels in the future?</p><p>Sources we talked to said it&rsquo;s unlikely. Most of the tunnels detailed above were built during Chicago&rsquo;s greatest growth and expansion. Chicago had 330,000 residents in 1870, but it boasted over a million just 20 years later. Major works of infrastructure, whether financed publicly or privately, were needed to support and encourage such growth.</p><p>But now, Chicago&rsquo;s population is declining &mdash; as many as 181,000 people left the city between 2000 and 2010 &mdash; even if some parts of town, like the Loop, have grown lately.</p><p>And between all the tunnels already under the Loop and other kinds of buried municipal and private infrastructure, it&rsquo;s pretty crowded underground. While there&rsquo;s no shortage of ongoing infrastructure projects abounding in Chicago, whether it&rsquo;s the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-09/bloomingdale-trail-reveals-chicagos-idea-grand-city-planning-102655">renovation of the Bloomingdale Trail</a> (sorry, I mean <a href="http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2013/06/17/sneak-peek-606">the 606</a>), upgrades to the Chicago riverfront or basic maintenance to the city&rsquo;s sewers, only the Deep Tunnel remains on the city&rsquo;s tunnel horizon.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That means that every tunnel down there now will one day be old. We may even abandon the newer ones someday in favor of better, more efficient solutions that haven&rsquo;t yet been invented.</p><p>For our question-asker Karri, that&rsquo;s a good reminder to pay attention to what&rsquo;s there now.</p><p>&ldquo;You work up in an office cubicle and don&rsquo;t think about [what&rsquo;s underground],&rdquo; Karri said. Exploring that infrastructure now &ldquo;can remind you of a flood, or the original purpose of the area, the history of it.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I guess that&rsquo;s its value.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 19:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/six-tunnels-hidden-under-chicago%E2%80%99s-loop-107791 Pill round-up: MWRD wants your unused medication http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/pill-round-mwrd-wants-your-unused-medication-106866 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/essjay/5134563753/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pills_0.jpg" style="height: 437px; width: 610px;" title="(Sarah Macmillan via Flickr)" /></a><br />Valium, adderall, warfarin &mdash; if it&rsquo;s common medication in the general population, it&rsquo;s a common water contaminant. <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=pharmaceuticals-in-the-water">Pharmaceutical products routinely enter the ecosystem</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/fish-drug-contaminated-water_n_2688901.html">altering the behavior of fish</a> and tainting the drinking water supplies of 40 million Americans.</p><p>To help cut back on that contamination, The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is participating in a national drug &ldquo;take-back&rdquo; event, inviting Chicagoans to anonymously dispose of their unused and unwanted medication.</p><p>MWRD has participated in all five national drug collection events, which are organized nationally by the Drug Enforcement Administration. For the first time, MWRD will weigh Saturday&rsquo;s haul to assess the program&rsquo;s reach.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Spring prescription drug collection date set for April 27; three drop-off sites at MWRD facilities. <a href="http://t.co/omfRjZWY16" title="http://twitter.com/MWRDGC/status/307169687496699904/photo/1">twitter.com/MWRDGC/status/&hellip;</a></p>&mdash; MWRD (@MWRDGC) <a href="https://twitter.com/MWRDGC/status/307169687496699904">February 28, 2013</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Drugs still make their way into our water, said Thomas Granato of MWRD&rsquo;s monitoring and research division, once they&rsquo;ve passed through the body. But destroying unused medication eliminates a preventable source of the pollution.</p><p>Granato said it&rsquo;s not currently possible for the District to remove pharmceutical contaminants from wastewater once they&rsquo;ve made it out into the environment. MWRD hands the medication they collect over to police, who have it incinerated.</p><p>Collection will be at the main gate of MWRD&rsquo;s three treatment facilities, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.</p><ul><li>O&rsquo;Brien Water Reclamation Plant, 3500 Howard Street, Skokie, Ill.</li><li>Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, 6001 W. Pershing Rd., Cicero, Ill.</li><li>Calumet Water Reclamation Plant, 400 E. 130<sup>th</sup> St., Chicago.</li></ul></p> Fri, 26 Apr 2013 17:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/pill-round-mwrd-wants-your-unused-medication-106866 Flooding in a drought year http://www.wbez.org/news/flooding-drought-year-106171 <p><p>After a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/drought-could-lead-chicago-river-reverse-course-again-104414" target="_blank">frighteningly dry</a> summer, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what-happens-if-water-lake-michigan-keeps-disappearing-104748" target="_blank">record-low lake levels</a> over the winter and a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-shippers-breathe-sigh-relief-rock-removal-begins-mississippi-river-104488" target="_blank">near shut-down of the Mississippi river</a> due to low waters, it&rsquo;s flood season. This week there were flood warnings in Lake County to the north of Chicago and in parts of&nbsp; the Illinois River to the west, and numerous rivers and streams hit flood or near-flood levels near the Quad Cities, Cairo and St. Louis.</p><p>The sudden flooding may be hard to absorb, but it&rsquo;s a fact of living in a floodplain state. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-would-chicago-look-if-settlers-hadn%E2%80%99t-changed-it-105902" target="_blank">Illinois&rsquo; low lands</a> and abundant rivers mean many parts of the state are liable to flood on a yearly basis, and the Chicago area&rsquo;s history is marked by almost countless <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/460.html" target="_blank">catastrophic floods</a>.</p><p>So, is anything special about <a href="http://thesouthern.com/news/local/a-bit-of-flooding-really-good-news/article_99028cea-9122-11e2-860c-001a4bcf887a.html" target="_blank">this year&rsquo;s flood warnings</a>? Well, yes and no.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F84135188" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;Typically, our flood season for the larger rivers is in the early spring,&rdquo; said Bill Morris, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service. But this year, he said, areas north of Chicago had a frost depth down to ten inches during the melt and precipitation. &ldquo;So when we had additional rainfall...that water basically hit a solid surface and just started running off into the streams.&rdquo;</p><p>Morris said the runoff has the added consequence of preventing much-needed water from absorbing into parched, drought-stricken soil. To make a deeper dent in the drought we&rsquo;ll need rain throughout the spring.</p><p>Flood or near-flood conditions have been even more widespread closer to St. Louis, but Mike Petersen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District agrees that it&rsquo;s not unusual.</p><p>&ldquo;I think what&rsquo;s really alarming for folks is to see how quickly the river came up this year,&rdquo; Petersen said.</p><p>In one day in the St. Louis area he saw the Mississippi rise ten feet due to a combination of increased water from snow melt in the north, and precipitation in the watershed. But rain doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean an end to drought.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we are relieved to have some water in the river, but...we may end up facing low water conditions seeing as we&rsquo;ve gone into this year with less water in the system than we started last year,&rdquo; Petersen said.</p><p><strong>Flood trouble</strong></p><p>Flooding in the greater Chicago area is a lot more complicated than what you might imagine when you hear about a flooded river; in that TV-ready scenario, the river overflows, and water creeps into streets and front yards.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7151_DSC_1622-scr.JPG" style="height: 208px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Kathy Parker lives in Morgan Park on the far South Side. Her basement filled with sewer water twice in 2011. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>But a lot of the flooding that strikes Chicago is flash flooding or sewer backups &ndash; the result of water filling up Chicago&rsquo;s notorious combined sewer system. Dramatic summertime floods afflicted multiple Chicago neighborhoods in recent summers when sudden rains overflowed the city&rsquo;s drainage system.</p><p>Beverly native Kathy Parker has lived in West Morgan Park&nbsp; on the far South Side for six years. In spring of 2011 her house flooded during a downpour, and her finished basement filled with several feet of sewer water. She cleaned for nearly two days straight, threw out a bunch of personal possessions, and thought she&rsquo;d seen the worst of it. A month later, her basement filled up again.</p><p>She described a situation that may be grossly familiar to many Chicagoans.</p><p>&ldquo;This time it was even worse, water just shooting like a fountain out of the drain, and everything imaginable and nasty in there,&rdquo; Parker said.</p><p>She lost her my parents&rsquo; wedding albums in the flood. Her block was lined with dumpsters where neighbors tossed carpets, flooring and personal items.</p><p>Darlene Crawford of Calumet Heights tells a similar story. She&rsquo;s lived on the Southeast Side for over 40 years with her family and has no desire to leave behind the house she bought shortly after marrying her husband.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a close-knit community and most of us have lived here, raised our children and now our grandchildren,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;and a lot of our kids have moved back into this area.&rdquo;</p><p>But not long after they moved into the house, their basement flooded for the first time. She says it has since flooded at least twenty times, not including instances of minor leaks.</p><p>&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t know to ask, or to have a home inspection [before moving in],&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But it wasn&rsquo;t long before they realized, as Kathy Parker had, that the problem was community-wide.</p><p>&ldquo;We found out that our house wasn&rsquo;t the only house experiencing this type of problem. After a rain we would see the alleys just littered with household items,&rdquo; Crawford said.</p><p>Crawford eventually came together with her neighbors to demand help from the city and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), but she says most of the solutions she and her neighbors have adopted are individual: flood insurance, remodeling, changing how they use their basements for storage and installing individual drainage systems for homes.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;Nobody does anything about it&rdquo;</strong></p><p><a href="http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/04/23/everybody-talks-about-the-weather/" target="_blank">Someone once said</a> everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.</p><p>Not so in the metro Chicago area. Cities and counties have no choice but to act on flooding; the amount of water that melts or precipitates in sudden bursts in an average Chicago spring or summer is too much to ignore.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s faced with a problem related to the nature of its expansive and world-famous sewer system. The system, originally constructed in the 1800s, is what&rsquo;s known as a combined sewer system: raw sewage and rainwater drain into the same pipes. Once upon a time, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-02/january-2-1900-reversing-chicago-river-95172" target="_blank">that drainage headed to the lake</a>; now most of it goes through some treatment and separation, and gets deposited into waterways connected to the Illinois and Chicago Rivers. But during a storm, the whole system can become quickly overwhelmed, and when it overflows, the overflow (politely called a Combined Sewer Overflow or CSO by the MWRD) is a mix of rain water and raw sewage.</p><p>The MWRD has been working since the 1970s on what&rsquo;s called the &ldquo;Deep Tunnel&rdquo; project or TARP (Tunnel and Reservoir Plan) that involves constructing a humongous system of tunnels, some as wide as 33 feet, connected to reservoirs designed to store overflow water. The 109 miles of underground tunnels are complete, but the last of the reservoirs won&rsquo;t be complete until 2029. MWRD says the construction of the TARP has reduced the numbers of days with combined sewer overflows from 100 per year to 50 per year on average.</p><p>But Chicago floods may also be addressed by community-based and development solutions.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a collective problem, rather than just an individual property problem,&rdquo; said Harriet Festing, director of the water program at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).</p><p>CNT is researching the prevalence and cost of flooding in the Chicago area by gathering insurance claim data and <a href="http://www.cnt.org/water/" target="_blank">personal stories about flooding experiences</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Forty-two percent of Cook County is impervious...that&rsquo;s our parking lots, our streets, our sidewalks. And that&rsquo;s just volumes of rain running off those areas and into our backyards and our basements,&rdquo; Festing said.</p><p>As long as that volume of runoff has nowhere to go, using personal funds to build a more waterproof basement or better drainage in your own backyard is tantamount to swimming upstream in the Calumet River (and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-area-waterways-slated-clean-105467" target="_blank">you don&rsquo;t want to do that</a>).</p><p>According to Festing, development that takes water runoff into account can go a long way in preventing increased flood risk in urban areas; rain barrels, rain gardens and small-scale projects in individual homes can also make a difference if they&rsquo;re installed across an entire neighborhood.</p><p>MWRD has been taking public comments on a proposed watershed management ordinance since 2009, and plans to release a complete draft this spring. If passed, the ordinance would authorize a more proactive district-wide approach to new development that would better absorb storm water and protect people from flooding.</p><p>Not flooded out yet? WBEZ&rsquo;s Chris Bentley has more on the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174" target="_blank">links between flooding and climate change</a>.</p><p>And you can get tips from <a href="http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/" target="_blank">the federal government</a> and from the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/water/supp_info/basement_floodingpartnership.html" target="_blank">City of Chicago</a> on how to deal with flooding in your area.&nbsp;</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter</a>.</p></p> Tue, 19 Mar 2013 17:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/flooding-drought-year-106171 Chicago-area waterways slated for a clean-up http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-area-waterways-slated-clean-105467 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/RS6847_038-scr.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Asked whether people might one day go for a swim in Chicago&#39;s Little Calumet River, environmental advocate Tom Shepherd snorted.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was a kid we used to jump in there,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And we didn&rsquo;t know anything about what kind of dangers were lurking in there but we did nevertheless, and we came out all black and grimy.&rdquo;</p><p>Shepherd, who works with the Southeast Environmental Task Force, now knows as well as anyone that the Calumet waterways have been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river-delivers-toxic-load-lake-michigan-105165" target="_blank">severely polluted for over a century</a> by a potent mix of toxic run-off from steel mills and sewage from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of the greater Chicago area. To this day, water flows from MWRD plants into the river without being disinfected to federal standards. An innocent kayaker who splashes water in her own face may be hit with a faceful of fecal bacteria.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F78819839&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;We have been advocating for disinfection for a long time,&rdquo; Shepherd said.</p><p>That disinfecting treatment is finally in sight. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced Monday that the state is giving $250 million in loans to the MWRD to help clean up Chicago-area waterways and replace aging infrastructure. More than half of the money will go to build facilities at the Calumet and O&rsquo;Brien treatment plants that take dangerous bacteria out of wastewater before it hits the Chicago or Calumet Rivers. Some of the funded projects will also help keep sewers from overflowing, which sends raw sewage into the waterways with relative frequency.</p><p>Quinn also touted the creation of 2,000 unionized jobs with the low-interest loans, which are a part of the <a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/financial-assistance/publications/clean-water-initiative-fact-sheet.pdf" target="_blank">Illinois Clean Water Initiative</a>.</p><p>The shift towards cleaner rivers hasn&rsquo;t come easy. For years the <a href="http://gapersblock.com/mechanics/2012/10/31/metropolitan-water-reclamation-district/" target="_blank">publicly-elected MWRD commission</a> fought for the right to not clean up Chicago&rsquo;s waterways. After a prolonged legal struggle, in 2011 the MWRD announced it had reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to start better <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/water-distrct-curb-raw-sewage-discharges-94902">managing polluted storm runoff</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/reversing-course-water-agency-backs-chicago-river-cleanup-87524" target="_blank">enforcing EPA standards</a>&nbsp;for water it releases from its plants.&nbsp;At that time the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-02/health/ct-met-chicago-river-politics-20110601_1_chicago-river-epa-order-epa-plan" target="_blank">Chicago Tribune reported</a> that between 60 and 100 percent of the water in the Chicago River on a given day originated in a wastewater treatment plant and came out only partially treated. The numbers in the Little Calumet, Chicago&rsquo;s branch of the Calumet River, are similar.</p><p>Shepherd said he doesn&rsquo;t see swimmers getting in the Little Calumet any time soon, but boaters are already coming back.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s pretty exciting. This summer we&rsquo;re doing more paddling on the river, we&rsquo;re bringing recreation, we have a great trail that&rsquo;s being developed,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>With Governor Quinn&rsquo;s support, in 2011 the Southeast Environmental Task Force was involved with declaring a large area of heavily polluted wetlands near Lake Calumet a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-expand-open-space-calumet-region-94780" target="_blank">future wildlife reserve</a>. At a press conference Monday, Quinn referenced the positive effects the water clean-up will have on that project, called the Millenium Reserve.</p><p>&ldquo;You have eagles who actually live here. How many urban areas in the whole United States have eagles?&rdquo; Quinn said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;ll be the largest conservation area in any urban environment in the whole United States, but in order to make it worthwhile, you&rsquo;ve gotta have clean water.&rdquo;</p><p>Shepherd, who has seen the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/nesting-bald-eagles-jeopardize-south-side-gun-range-96220" target="_blank">eagles nesting in the south side wetlands</a>, was hopeful about the clean-up efforts, but a little more reserved than Quinn.</p><p>&ldquo;Someday we may be able to fish out there,&rdquo; he said.</p></p> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 15:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-area-waterways-slated-clean-105467 Chicago's water department says it's secure against cyber attack http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-water-department-says-its-secure-against-cyber-attack-94252 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-21/MWRD flickr brewbooks.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago department in charge of the city's water said it's safe from cyber attack. That comes after what may have been a cyber attack on a water facility just outside of Springfield, Illinois.</p><p>On November 8th, attackers allegedly gained access to a rural Illinois water utility network and its pumps. Reuters reported no service was disrupted, but it appears credentials were stolen from a company that makes software to control industrial systems.</p><p>The Springfield FBI is still investigating but said they don't believe infrastructure or public safety is at risk.</p><p>David St. Pierre is with Chicago's Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. He said Chicago's water system doesn't have the same vulnerabilities as the one downstate.</p><p>"Our system does not tie to the external world. Our security strategy is that they are independent so there really is no way for anybody to access them from the outside, at all," St. Pierre said.</p><p>The downstate water utility reporting the security breach did not immediately return calls for comment.</p></p> Mon, 21 Nov 2011 21:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicagos-water-department-says-its-secure-against-cyber-attack-94252 Feds okay Chicago River cleanup http://www.wbez.org/story/feds-okay-chicago-river-cleanup-93801 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-03/Chi River.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>After months of back and forth, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has approved Illinois' new water quality standards for several Chicago area waterways.&nbsp; For more than a year, the EPA has encouraged Illinois to make the Chicago and Calumet Rivers clean enough to swim in.</p><p>Former Mayor Richard Daley responded to federal regulators by telling them to "go swim in the Potomac."&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago is one of the few big cities in the country that doesn't disinfect sewage before discharging it. But this past May, the EPA's encouragement became a demand. After overcoming political opposition from local water officials, the Illinois government was forced to change its quality standards. Local water officials will now have to disinfect water discharged into the river system.</p><p>The approved standards will apply to the North and South Branches of the Chicago River, the North Shore Channel, the Cal-Sag Channel and the Little Calumet River.</p><p>An EPA official says the new standards will transform the Chicago River from a sewage canal to a recreational and economic asset.</p></p> Mon, 07 Nov 2011 13:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/feds-okay-chicago-river-cleanup-93801 Cook County Democratic Party slates ticket http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-democratic-party-slates-ticket-92916 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-06/Dem Slate.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Candidates for next year's Cook County elections made their pitches Thursday for why they deserve the support of the Democratic Party.</p><p>The three minute speeches candidates gave may or may not have actually mattered in the final vote. Many Democratic committee members had proxies show up in their stead, and others had already decided who they'd vote for in slating the ticket.</p><p>The Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County is a hot position in next year’s election, and incumbent Dorothy Brown is the Democratic Party’s choice. She faced Ricardo Munoz for the Party’s backing.</p><p>He used much of his time Thursday pitching the committee, trying to convince them that Brown wasn’t fit for the job. Chief among his complaints was her office's lack of e-filing capabilities for lawyers.</p><p>“Dorothy Brown’s inefficiency is as outdated as her computer technology,” Munoz said.</p><p>But Munoz’s many complaints weren’t enough to win over the Democratic Party, and neither was his being backed by Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle.</p><p>But other candidates' pitches did end in success.&nbsp; Karen Yarborough is the committee's choice for Recorder of Deeds, and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez ran unopposed.</p><p>Other offices up for grabs are three jobs with the the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The committee chose to slate incumbent Deborah Shore, chemist Kari Steele and lawyer Patrick Thompson.</p><p>Thompson grew up in a well-known Chicago political family: the Daleys. He said growing up with so many public servants inspired him to seek the office.</p><p>For the Cook County Board of Review, the committee chose Larry Rogers, Michael Carbonargi and Casey Griffin.</p><p>As for the candidates that didn't win the Democratic Party's backing, some will still run, but most are expected to drop out.</p></p> Fri, 07 Oct 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-democratic-party-slates-ticket-92916 After Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board vote, what's next for the Chicago River? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-08/after-metropolitan-water-reclamation-district-board-vote-whats-next-chic <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-08/River Flickr Payton Chung.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On Tuesday, the board of the <a href="http://www.mwrd.org/irj/portal/anonymous/Home" target="_blank">Metropolitan Water Reclamation District</a> board agreed to disinfect sewage from two Chicago-area treatment plants. Their 8-1 vote is the latest move in a long debate over the cleanliness of the Chicago River, one that has grown to involve state and federal authorities.<br> <br> To find out what’s next and how soon our waters might be clean <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> was joined by Commissioner <a href="http://www.debrashore.org/" target="_blank">Debra Shore</a> of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.</p><p><em>Music Button: Medeski Martin &amp; Wood, "Mimi Gato", from the CD Note Bleu: Best of the Blue Note Years, (Blue Note)</em></p></p> Wed, 08 Jun 2011 14:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-08/after-metropolitan-water-reclamation-district-board-vote-whats-next-chic Officials move closer to disinfecting Chicago River http://www.wbez.org/story/officials-move-closer-disinfecting-chicago-river-87338 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-02/IMG_3673.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A state board took a major step today in the long-running debate over how clean the Chicago River should be, proposing to make the river safe enough to swim in.</p><p>“I think this is a big turning point in the long, long battle to clean up the Chicago River,” said Jessica Dexter, staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center.</p><p>The Illinois Pollution Control Board has been mulling the issue for years. If the new standard is finalized, it would all but guarantee the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District would have to start disinfecting the treated sewage it pumps into the river system.</p><p>That agency delayed a much-anticipated vote Thursday over whether to adopt a pro-disinfection policy. It became obvious at the meeting that a clear majority of commissioners now support disinfection. But one commissioner blocked the vote, and District President Terry O’Brian reiterated his skepticism.</p><p>“President Obama when he took office said that for any public health and safety issues, environmental issues, energy issues, there should be science done,” said O’Brian. “And what are we doing? We’re throwing science out the window.”</p><p>Still, O’Brian said outright he would not veto a "yes" vote.</p><p>“It’s almost a race between the two agencies to see if the Water Reclamation District is going to step up and do this voluntarily or if they’re gonna wait until the USEPA and the Illinois Pollution Control Board forces their hand,” ELPC’s Dexter said.</p><p>Each agency is expected to reach a decision at its next meeting, both of which are scheduled for June 16th.</p></p> Thu, 02 Jun 2011 20:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/officials-move-closer-disinfecting-chicago-river-87338 Environmentalists sue water district over discharges http://www.wbez.org/story/environmentalists-sue-water-district-over-discharges-86028 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-03/Chi River.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Conservation groups are taking the Chicago-area’s water reclamation district to court, accusing the agency of chronically polluting the region’s river system. The plaintiffs call out the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for allowing sewage and storm water to spill into waterways on rainy days, including<a href="http://www.mwrd.org/irj/portal/anonymous?NavigationTarget=navurl://a5611bcef89c3cc2abca008c0ea969df&amp;LightDTNKnobID=-983772002"> 19 times this year so far</a>. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network say that overflow, along with excess phosphorous and other wastewater pollution, violate the Clean Water Act.&nbsp;</p><p>The District is working on the deep tunnel and reservoir project, which would divert most overflows. But the Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Ann Alexander said that effort has taken too long.</p><p>“They need to get off the dime and finish the tunnel and reservoir project that they started more the three decades and three billion dollars ago,” Alexander said. “But they need to do more than that.”</p><p>The Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network are also plaintiffs.</p><p>The water district is in talks with the federal government over how to resolve the Clean Water Act issues through a consent decree. A spokesman says the district hadn’t received the lawsuit as of late yesterday, and, citing the ongoing legal negotiations, declined to comment. &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 03 May 2011 21:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/environmentalists-sue-water-district-over-discharges-86028