January 22, 2010

Latest MWRD Excuse For Not Making the Chicago River Safe: Global Warming

Today's Tribune article demonstrates the lengths the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District will go to keep open the giant loophole that allows them to deny Chicagoans the same protection the give suburban residents - killing dangerous pathogens in their effluent before they dump it in the Chicago River system.

MWRD disinfects the treated water they discharge to the DuPage River system, but is spending taxpayer dollars fighting the State of Illinois' attempts to make them clean up their act. The City of Chicago, the Illinois Attorney General, and a coalition of environmental, health, and recreation advocates also support cleanup.

The Tribune has the latest in MWRD's campaign to maintain the status quo:
Engineers with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago recently completed an in-house study of its carbon footprint at the request of the elected board of commissioners. Going beyond the assignment, they also decided to look at how the footprint would change if it had to kill bacteria in sewage before pouring it into the Chicago River.

Starting to disinfect the wastewater — a change the 120-year-old agency has long opposed — would bolster the district's greenhouse gas emissions and thereby cause more bad than good, they concluded.

"With additional treatment, you have to weigh how much water quality is actually being accomplished with more harm to the environment in another way," said Louis Kollias, the director of the district's Monitoring and Research Department. "You're going to have to have it one way or the other. You can't have both."
Obviously reducing your carbon footprint is a good idea, for lots of reasons. Other local governments are doing that by buying renewable energy instead of dirty power, That's how the State of Illinois, the cities of Chicago and Springfield, and many others are doing.

I know of no efforts by MWRD to buy wind or solar power instead of coal. Instead, they plan for second-class sewage treatment? Are they looking at turning off disinfection in the suburbs, to save on energy costs?

This would all be funny if it weren't putting people at risk. And it is hardly a joke that MWRD is wasting our property tax dollars on lawyers and PR schemes like this, all supposedly in the name of cost effectiveness.

Consider it the latest reason to make smart choices when you vote for MWRD Commissioner February 2nd. Sierra Club's recommendations are here.


Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shannon said...

insane. Thanks for bringing out the important issue of social justice in deciding how to deal with environmental issues. Do they have some special permit, or are the other plants making the choice to use higher treatment standards?