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Streets & San in the News

In the Sun Times: Yesterday the Chicago Streets and Sanitation Department unveiled a new boat to be used on the Chicago River. The Scavenger 2000 is a 38-foot, one-person craft which features a bow which opens to become a floating vacuum cleaner, sucking in 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of water per minute. Trash is skimmed off and collected in a basket, while the water continues through a "decontamination chamber" which injects ozone to kill bacteria and viruses, as well as breaking down odor-causing chemicals and pollutants. The hyper-oxygenated water is then ejected from the rear of the vessel.

While it will no doubt help improve the water quality in the river to some degree, what is really needed is a similar decontamination system where the bacteria enters the river: at the sewage treatment plants where wastewater is not fully disinfected. Chicago is one of the few major cities which does not disinfect its graywater before releasing it downstream. Paradoxically, the Water Reclamation District does not decontaminate its wastewater because the Chicago River is not considered clean enough to warrant it.

Without changes at the source, the river will still be too dangerous for human contact, no matter how many toy boats the city launches. Besides, the river is not some bathtub of dirty water to be scrubbed clean, it is a damaged but living and improving ecosystem. How many fish and beneficial organisms will be sucked through the disinfection chamber and killed along with the harmful ones? Instead of toy vacuum cleaners, a more advanced solution to cleansing the water would be a program to plant vegetation and wetlands along the banks of the river, to let the water sift and clean itself with sunlight and natural algae.

In other news, a short summary of the Streets and San Department appeared recently in WasteAge magazine.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 18, 2008 9:17 PM.

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