pollution

Where Does that Water Go When it Rains A Lot?

I did something super nerdy yesterday.

I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago‘s McCook Reservoir and Mainstream Pumping Station.

 

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The circular entrance of MWRD is approximately the same size as the tunnels

 

Have I bored you already? Just wait.

The Mainstream Pumping Station is one of three stations designed to capture combined sewer overflows (where both sanitary and storm flow go through the same pipes) from an area of 375 square miles. Remember when I wrote about all the poop in the Chicago River? This would help alleviate that from happening.

When it rains a decent amount, all of the impervious surfaces of the city (roads, sidewalks, buildings) keep the rain from seeping back into the ground, causing it to run off into the city’s combined sewers.

The station is part of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan which is designed to eliminate waterway pollution caused by combined sewer overflows and provide an outlet for flood waters. Phase I of TARP, intended primarily for pollution control, is made up of four distinct tunnel systems including Mainstream.

It consists of 31 miles of tunnels 240 to 300 feet below ground.  Sewage and stormwater entering the tunnels are carried to the Mainstream Pumping Station, where it is pumped to Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, the largest wastewater treatment plant

IN THE WORLD.

The McCook Reservoir is currently under construction and, when completed,  will have a total capacity of 10 billion gallons. It will be as long as 17 Soldier Fields stacked side by side (or it was 11, can’t recall exactly what the tour guide said!). When fully completed in 2029, the McCook Reservoir will provide more than $143 million per year in flood damage reduction benefits to 3,100,000 people in 37 communities.

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McCook Reservoir will be ready to handle stormwater by the end of 2017.

 

So here is an easier explanation of how this works:

  1. It rains a lot
  2. The rain runs over sidewalks and roads and into the sewers
  3. When enough stormwater enters the sewers it can combine with the sewage sewer, resulting in a combined sewer overflow
  4. To prevent this, the stormwater drops into deep underground tunnels
  5. The water travels to a reservoir like McCook
  6.  The reservoir acts as a giant holding tank where stormwater is held until the water treatment plant has the capacity to handle it
  7. When it does, the Mainstream Pumping Station will pump the water to the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant
  8. The water is treated
  9. The treated water is released into the waterway
  10. Flooding and CSOs are prevented

That’s it!

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Participating in A Climate Science Sweat Fest

Saturday, April 29th, I had the opportunity to be a part of the 200,000 people marching in solidarity with environmental regulations, climate protection, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Thousands joined in sister marches all over the world.

D.C., the home of the President (when not at Mar-a-Lago), and my home for 2 years was plastered with signs defying the administration’s 100 days of damage.

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I have never been a part of such a large-scale protest march before, even though it is now becoming the norm. We overheard another marcher saying they had not been to a protest since Vietnam.

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As the clouds parted, we gathered near the Capitol, trying to stay in the shade of the trees as long as possible, before lining up in the street. Once we were assembled, we baked in the sun, sweat pouring down our backs.

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Everyone we saw and met was kind and generous and strong-willed to be there in the heat. There were babies, dogs, kids, and grandparents marching for clean air and water for their grandchildren.

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It was an extremely peaceful march. I saw zero incidences of conflict or arrests, just concerned citizens. Everyone walked, holding up their signs, frying in the relentless sun.

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There were times when chants were shouted, especially when we passed the Trump International Hotel.

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The Newseum sits on Pennsylvania Avenue. On the outside of the building is a bold reminder of our first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition the government.  How appropriate.

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The signs, the outfits, and yes, the puppets, were all creative. These people spent hours and days getting ready for their voice to be heard, even if the President was not physically in the District to bother to listen.

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We proceeded along towards the White House at a decent pace, only bottle-necking shortly in front of the hotel.

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The sidewalks were crowded with onlookers and marchers taking a quick break to sit in the shade.

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With the higher than normal temperatures, we had to be very diligent with our water, as we would not get a chance to refill until the end at the Washington Monument.

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Ironically, entrepreneurs were taking advantage of the thirsty by peddling water in disposable plastic bottles to the crowds. Most people had their own or wore CamelBaks (great idea), but sometimes thirst is too overpowering, an issue we are going to have to deal with more and more in the future.

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As we approached the White House, the crowd started to spill out into Lafayette Square to be rescued by the benches and shady trees.

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It was an experience I will never forget, even though it is only a blip on the radar of this administration.

No matter.

I am positive we won’t be backing down soon.

 

 

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The chants we repeated basically said it all.

“We won’t go away.

Welcome to your 100th day.” 

Plastic Filled Great Lakes

Do we really need more findings to come out confirming what we already know?

Basically,  a lot of plastic and garbage gets dumped in not just the oceans, but the Great Lakes too.

Living along Lake Michigan, I take great interest in the goings on and health of the Great Lakes.

On occasion, I voluntarily clean up Lake Michigan beaches from the garbage people leave behind, or the trash that washes ashore.

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Oak Street Beach clean up on Lake Michigan

 

Now imagine 100 Olympic sized swimming pools, which equates to roughly 11 million pounds of plastic debris. That is how much is dumped into Lake Michigan every year according to a new study using computer simulation models at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Lake Michigan receives the most plastic pollution out of all of the Great Lakes due to urban areas such as Chicago and Milwaukee on its shores. These plastic pieces get easily moved around due to winds and the currents, causing most of Chicago and Milwaukee’s waste to end up along the eastern shore of the lake (Sorry Michigan).

Sadly, we are not doing much about this issue. We cannot just address the end point of pollution by continually cleaning it up. We need to start at the source of the problem, which is us, our overconsumption and lack of regard for where our waste ends up.

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Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

 

 

 

FYI: There is Poop in The Chicago River Right Now

If you are in the metro area, you know that it has been raining most of the evening, and it has definitely rained more than 0.3 inches (I explained why that number was significant in this post).

We have a combined sewer overflow (CSO)!

According to istheresewageinthechicagoriver.com there are 56 locations of CSOs as of the time of writing (1o PM).

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You can get more information about tonight’s CSOs and sign up for email alerts here.