“Some good and long-awaited stormwater news quietly dropped the other day—a federal judge approved the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s (MWRD) Consent Decree, which is a binding agreement detailing very specific steps MWRD will take to move toward full compliance with the Clean Water Act and other federal guidelines on an equally specific timeline. There has been and will continue to be debate about whether the Consent Decree is strong enough, fast enough or green enough. But the reality is that it is now in place, and I’m excited that we can finally get to work on something, rather than sitting around waiting. I don’t read too many court rulings, but I found this one quite scannable.MWRD, of course, is responsible for wastewater and stormwater management throughout Cook County; on a daily basis it discharges treated effluent to area waterways, and that water must meet Clean Water Act standards. The same requirements hold true in storms, and that’s where most of the impetus for the Consent Decree lies: If there is more rain more quickly than MWRD’s infrastructure system can handle, the result is overflows of untreated wastewater and stormwater into those same waterways…resulting it MWRD being out of compliance with aspects of its Clean Water Act (and associated regulation) requirements. To be fair, many other metropolitan areas have the same problems, and as a result have their own Consent Decree in place. Several years ago MWRD, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ill. Environmental Protection Agency began working out the requirements—finish the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) by X, improve collection of ‘floatables’ in our waterways by Y, etc. When the draft Consent Decree was released for public comment, two separate coalitions of environmental organizations opined that the whole thing should be faster and greener. A federal judge was asked to determine if the requirements were reasonable, that went on for a bit, he decided they were, and now it’s what we have to work with, so let’s get to work.”
Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes that began to rebound significantly thanks to the Clean Water Act and several cleanup projects, is being threatened by toxic blue-green algae. Fed by fertilizers and runoff, the algae can deplete oxygen levels in the water and be detrimental to the lake’s health.
From The Plain Dealer:
“The Western Basin of Lake Erie, located roughly from Toledo to Huron, is becoming seriously affected with toxic blue-green algae. During the summer months, the algal blooms have been so bad that swimmers have emerged from Lake Erie covered in green slime. So far, swimming in Lake Erie has not been prohibited as it was in Grand Lake St. Mary’s, however, the thick algal blooms are not very inviting to swimmers and tends to affect the taste of our drinking water.
The enjoyment of Lake Erie for boating and fishing has also become hampered by the costs to repair clogged engines and the costs of reduced economic drivers, such as fishing charters and other recreational opportunities. We are dangerously close to severely restricting our use and enjoyment of one of the world’s greatest natural resources.”
Read the complete article at the link above to learn more about threats to Lake Erie, and read more about Great Lakes health issues and research at our web page.
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