Skip to main content


Daley to EPA: 'Go Swim in the Potomac'

The federal government wants Illinois to make the Chicago River clean enough to swim in. But that's struck a nerve with Chicago's Mayor.

The dust-up stems from a letter sent to the state by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, saying Illinois should make the Chicago River clean enough to swim in.

Mayor Richard Daley offered a curt reply.

DALEY: Go swim in the Potomac.

Daley says the Chicago River, once little more than an above-ground sewer, is now much cleaner, thanks to local anti-pollution efforts.

He balked at the EPA for not offering to help pay for further clean-up.

DALEY: They just can't make an announcement and walk away and say, "Well, we did it from Washington, D.C., and that's it" - without even talking to local officials or talking to the governor or everyone else.

The EPA has taken a much more aggressive stance lately, even stepping in to toughen local water quality standards it deems inadequate.

Linda Holst, with the Water Quality Branch of the EPA in Chicago, says the letter she sent does not require Chicago or the state to take any action, but was merely in response to proposed state rule.

She says it's possible for the federal government to step in and toughen Illinois' water laws, though it isn't likely.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.