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Report: Water Reclamation Commissioners Now Back River Cleanup

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Chicago River

The main branch of the Chicago River, near Franklin Street. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Kayaking, and even swimming safely, in the Chicago River in the future may not be such a far-fetched idea after all.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the Chicago River is the only river in a major metropolitan area that is not required to have its sewage cleaned of bacteria before being dumped into the river.

Until now, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has been against changing that.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

But the Chicago Tribune says a majority of the commissioners for the district now plan to back a move to clean the more than 1 billion gallons of sewage dumped each day in Chicago waterways.

Opponents say placing the needed germ-killing equipment will take away from communities that need sewer improvements.

Last month, the conservation group American Rivers placed the Chicago River system on its list for the first time. The river system is among just 10 on a nationwide list where major cleanup action is being considered by policymakers.

A week earlier, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demanded that parts of the river be clean enough for “recreation in and on the water,” which means activities from swimming to canoeing.

The order also applies to the Cal-Sag Channel and the Little Calumet River.

The federal EPA says it will step in if the Illinois EPA does not tighten its water standards.

Estimates put the cleanup cost at for the river system $425 million.

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