The city of Chicago’s sanitation agency defends its decision not to disinfect its sewage. It is the only major city in the US not to do so. You can read the full story here:
Essentially Chicago officials are making the case that by adding an extra step to their wastewater treatment process, they are increasing their carbon footprint. According to their calculations, building additional treatment will cost the city between $500 and $300 million , depending on whether you believe the city or the EPA. To be clear, the city is within its permit from the EPA, which allows it to discharge treated wastewater into the Chicago River. The item in question is related to making the river safe for recreational use, which would require more stringent controls on nutrients, fecal coliform bacteria and other bacterias. Essentially, the municipal governing board is throwing everything they can at the idea because they don’t want to spend the money to make the river safe for recreational use. Disinfection technology is not a new idea, nor would it be so expensive if they hadn’t fought the proposal for so long. It’s also worth bearing in mind that cities downstream from Chicago that use the discharged water have to deal with this undisinfected water to make it safe for their populations. Until things change, don’t swim in the Chicago River.
High quality water is more than the dream of the conservationists, more than a political slogan; high quality water, in the right quantity at the right place at the right time, is essential to health, recreation, and economic growth.
EDMUND S. MUSKIE, U.S. Senator, speech, 1 March 1966