by Adam Allington for the Environment Report
Earlier this spring, the Obama administration ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up a five-year study of options to block invasive Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Many biologists say the best solution would be complete separation of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed. But basin separation comes with its own multi-billion dollar price tag... and it would require re-plumbing the entire City of Chicago.
This story begins with a nice round number, and that number is 1900… the year the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was complete.
Back then, the canal’s opening was touted as one of the biggest civil engineering feats of the industrial age—significant, for completely reversing the flow of the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan and taking all the sewage from the city of Chicago with it.
Over 100 years later, that canal is still doing the same job.
“On any given day, depending on the time of year, approximately 60-80 percent of the volume of the Chicago River is treated municipal wastewater.”