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

USEPA Determines That Water Quality Standards for Chicago Area Waterway System Are Inadequate

In a letter dated May 11, 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency informed the Illinois EPA that Illinois’ water quality standards for certain portions of the Chicago Area Waterway System (“CAWS”) are inadequate.  This was first reported by the Chicago Tribune in a front-page story.

Illinois last evaluated water quality standards for the CAWS in 1985.  The USEPA letter states that, since 1985, the CAWS “has been transformed into a valuable recreational asset that citizens increasingly use for boating, canoeing, kayaking, jet and water skiing, tubing and swimming.”  Because of the increased recreational uses of the CAWS, “new or revised water quality standards that protect recreation in and on the water are necessary . . . . EPA expects Illinois to expeditiously adopt new or revised water quality standards consistent with this determination.  If Illinois fails to do so, EPA will promptly do so itself.”

USEPA’s determination will impact a  rulemaking proceeding currently before the Illinois Pollution Control Board, where the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (“MWRD”) has argued that it should not have to disinfect all of the sewage effluent it pumps into waterways.  To attain the new standards now required, USEPA stated in its letter that MWRD “would likely be required to disinfect discharges from its North Side and Calumet Water Reclamation Plants.”

This is a big win for environmental groups, which have been involved in the long fight against MWRD on the disinfection issue before the Pollution Control Board.

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 Dave Scriven-Young at (312) 239-9722 or

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