The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the state of Illinois announced a Clean Water Act (CWA) settlement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to resolve claims that untreated sewer discharges were released into Chicago area waterways during flood and wet weather events.
The settlement will safeguard water quality and protect people’s health by capturing stormwater and wastewater from the combined sewer system, which services the city of Chicago and 51 communities.
“These much needed upgrades to Chicago’s sewer infrastructure will reduce combined sewage overflows and the public’s exposure to harmful pathogens,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The use of innovative green infrastructure in the city’s urban core will reduce runoff and flooding, and improve the quality of the environment where people live.”
Under the settlement, the MWRD will work to complete a tunnel and reservoir plan to increase its capacity to handle wet weather events and address combined sewer overflow discharges. The project will be completed in a series of stages in 2015, 2017 and 2029. The settlement also requires MWRD to control trash and debris in overflows using skimmer boats to remove debris from the water so it can be collected and properly managed, making waterways cleaner and healthier. MWRD is also required to implement a green infrastructure program that will reduce stormwater runoff in areas serviced by MWRD by distributing rain barrels and developing projects to build green roofs, rain gardens, or use pervious paving materials in urban neighborhoods. MWRD has also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $675,000.