Will people ever swim and fish in the Chicago River? | WBEZ
Skip to main content

Afternoon Shift

Will people ever swim and fish in the Chicago River?

Previous Next
(Flickr/Steven Vance)

It may actually happen in our lifetimes.  

Serious efforts are underway to try to clean up the Chicago River so people can actually swim and fish in it without having to worry about getting sick. Illinois Governor Quinn has pledged to add $10 million to the $21 million fund to disinfect sewage going into the river.  City and state officials actually have plans to make the river a showpiece with walking and bike paths, where it once was considered by many to be a metropolitan toilet, associated with sewage and stink.

The clean-up effort comes after the Environmental Protection Agency last year demanded that parts of the Chicago River be clean enough for recreation.

Chicago has been the only major city in the United States that does not disinfect human and industrial waste in the sewers before it ends up in the waterway, according to published reports.

An exhibition entitled "Waterline" shows what the Chicago River's South Branch from Wolf Point to Pilsen could look like under different redevelopment scenarios. The exhibition is the work of a dozen Harvard University graduate design students working with Skidmore Owings & Merrill Urban Design Partner Philip Enquist. You can see it at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum this summer.

Enquist and Friends of the Chicago River Executive Director Margaret Frisbie talked with Alison Cuddy on the Afternoon Shift about the future of the Chicago River and what kind of development is needed to make it a place where residents want to go and have fun.

Get the WBEZ App

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