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Swimming in the Chicago River

The Chicago Tribune reports today on a surprise letter sent to the state of Illinois, the EPA and Obama administration recommended that the Chicago River be made clean enough for swimming. Environmental groups have long argued that water from sewage treatment plants must be disinfected before it is discharged into the river. Wastewater from these plants is the primary source of harmful bacteria in the river, as well as drainage pipes carrying combined sewage and storm runoff which overflow into the river when filled with rainwater, pictured in the chart above.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has argued that the extra electricity required to disinfect wastewater will increase carbon emissions leading to global warming.

Mayor Daley responded to the EPA letter with annoyance that the feds might interfere in local politics. But if the extra attention from Washington helps clean up the Chicago river, what's wrong with that?


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