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January 2010 Archives

January 17, 2010

Dreaming of Garbage

On Saturday I attended a screening of the film Garbage Dreams at the Chicago Cultural Center. The film is a gentle portrait of three young men who are learning the traditional garbage collecting trade of the Zaballeen, the waste collecting caste of Cairo.

A city of 18 million, Cairo has no formal garbage collection service, just the diligent efforts of the Zaballeen, who haul the refuse back to their homes to sort out the food waste, rags, and recyclables. With these lo-tech methods, they are able to boast recycling rates near 80% and earn a small income.

But Cairo dreams of entering the modern world, with a modern trash handling system. Multi-national waste hauling companies are winning contracts to whisk the city's garbage away to new landfills. How will the Zaballeen survive without their traditional business? Can they compete with the modern throwaway world? You will have to see the film to find out.

Garbage Dreams will be shown on PBS in April. Check your local station for times.

January 20, 2010

Carp's Day in Court

On Tuesday the Supreme Court refused to hear Michigan's case against Illinois which sought to close the waterway connecting to the Great Lakes to block passage of Asian Carp into Lake Michigan.

Also on Tuesday the Army Corps of Engineers announced that carp DNA has been found in Calumet harbor. No carp have yet been found, but DNA evidence seems to indicate at least one fish has made it into the Great Lakes. If a breeding population can get established Lake Michigan, the natural ecosystem and fishing industry will be devastated.

January 22, 2010

Why a Dirty River is Green

Human Body Contact

As reported in today's Tribune, the Water Reclamation District just completed a study which concludes that fully cleaning the wastewater from the city's sewage plants would increase their carbon footprint and therefore be bad for the environment. So the Chicago River must be degraded in order to save the entire Earth.

Chicago is one of the few large cities in the U.S. that does not send its wastewater through a final disinfectant processing, either using chlorination or UV treatment. This requires electricity, so that adding this step to the treatment process would increase the Water Reclamation District carbon footprint if it was used. That is the basis of the argument that not treating the water is better for global warming. By that logic, they should turn off the electricity for the treatment plants entirely.

For years the Water Reclamation District has resisted disinfecting its wastewater. They claim that the Chicago River is only used by a handful of recreational boaters, so there is no need to increase costs to benefit a narrow special interest. As long as Chicago is allowed to flush its waste downstream and out of its sight, the waste will be ignored. If the recent lawsuit by the State of Michigan had succeeded in closing off the Shipping Channel which drains our sewage, the Water Reclamation District would have to reconsider its position.

About January 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Down Chicago’s Drain in January 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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