Endangered River’ victory on the Chicago River

June 8th, 2011

Gary Belan, 202-347-7550 or Amy Kober, 503-708-1145

Chicago – American Rivers today announced a major victory for the Chicago River, one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™ of 2011. American Rivers commended the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Chicago for acting on the recommendations in the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report and voting to disinfect sewage wastewater, which will significantly improve public health and safety.

American Rivers named the Chicago River one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers on May 17, highlighting the threat that undisinfected sewage – dumped into the river every day – poses to clean water and the many boaters and anglers who use the river. The MWRD’s vote to begin disinfecting sewage dumped from the North Side and Calumet treatment plants is a major step toward a cleaner, healthier river and represents a historic victory. 

“We are proud to declare our endangered rivers listing a success,” said Gary Belan, director of the clean water program at American Rivers. “Many groups have been calling on MWRD to clean up the river, and today we can celebrate the fact that this world-class city will finally have the river it deserves. We hope this is the last time the Chicago River makes an appearance on our endangered list.”

Recent statements from the U.S. EPA, Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, Congressman Mike Quigley, Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and the Chicago City Council calling for disinfection and cleaning up the Chicago River have increased the pressure on the MWRD.

“We are thrilled by the District’s decision today” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. “Instead of debating whether we should disinfect we can work together to make it happen. When Friends was founded 32 years ago no one would have ever believed that this day would come. This is terrific news for all the people who use the river or wish they could.”

“On this hot summer day, the Chicago River is becoming cooler, healthier, safer, and a better community asset for all of us to enjoy.” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We’re on our way toward a Chicago River that will be safer for paddling, fishing, recreation and development.”

“Treating this waterway like a sewer has sullied not just our backyards and downtown, but also the Great Lakes and Mississippi River system,” said Henry Henderson, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest Program and a former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago. “Today’s vote finally recognizes that fact and brings us in line with the rest of the nation. The river can become the amenity that Chicago deserves, not something to avoid for fear of illness.”


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About American Rivers

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.