News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 881-6309

U.S. EPA Approves Tougher Standards for Portions of Chicago Waterways

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved water quality standards set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board for certain portions of Chicago-area waterways.  The new standards establish recreational use designations for the Chicago Area Waterway System (“CAWS”) and the Lower Des Plaines River (“LDPR”).

EPA approved the Board’s adoption of four categories of recreational use designation for CAWS and LDPR: Primary Contact Recreation, Incidental Contact Recreation, Non-Contact Recreation, and Non Recreation.  These categories limit the levels of pollution in the waterways depending on the type of recreation that is expected.  At the highest level of recreation is “Primary Contact Recreation”, which means “any recreational activity in which human contact consists of full body contact with the waters, such as swimming, diving or jumping, and includes all Incidental Contact Recreation.”  The Chicago River is put into the category of “Primary Contact Recreation.”  The lowest level of recreation is “Non-recreational,” which means “a water body where the physical conditions or hydrologic modifications preclude primary contact, incidental contact and noncontact recreation.”  The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal from its confluence with the Calumet-Sag Channel to its confluence with Des Plaines River is put into the category of “Non-recreational.”

According to EPA’s website, “EPA is still reviewing the standards adopted by Illinois for other portions of the Chicago Area Waterway and Lower Des Plaines River and will make a decision about them at a later date.”  Also, “the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) is continuing to evaluate adoption of criteria necessary to protect recreational uses and adoption of new standards to protect aquatic life in the Chicago Area Waterway and Lower Des Plaines River.”

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments. To set up a free initial consultation to discuss your legal matter, please contact Chicago environmental attorney Dave Scriven-Young at (312) 239-9722 or

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