MWRD Board Finally Votes for Disinfection

Finally. on June 7, 2011, the MWRD Board voted to start planning to institute disinfection at the three plants where this is not done. See the article by Kari Lyderson. The vote was 8 to 1 in favor. The lone vote against was board president Terry O’Brien. Note that he is up for re-election in 2012.

Now the challenge is to get this policy implemented as quickly and economically as possible. It appears that the Stickney plant will be put off for a while. This actually seems reasonable to me. I shall continue to monitor the progress the board makes in implementing their policy.

Disinfection is by no means the only improvement needed in the processes of the MWRD. We Green Party candidates have been calling for plans to remove all contaminants from the effluent.

MWRD Board Postpones Vote on Disinfection

At the request of Commissioner McGowan, the MWRD Board postponed a decision on whether the MWRD would support a policy of disinfection at all MWRD plants until the next Board meeting on June 16th.

There was actually a rather vigorous discussion at the Board meeting which is unusual for the Board meetings I have attended. Most of the commissioners clearly wanted the MWRD to move on and accept the demands of the EPA and the Illinois Pollution Control Board and start planning how to implement disinfection. Clearly the Board President O’Brien and Commissioner McGowan were reluctant to move ahead with this.

I spoke in favor of the Board adopting the policy of disinfecting at all plants. I recognize, as do all serious commentators, that this will be expensive. But the first step is agree that this has to be done. Then we have to go about making the plans on how to do it within the budget constraints every public agency is facing.

Sign petition for disinfection

The Environmental Law and Policy Center has created an online petition asking the MWRD to implement disinfection.

Let’s see if Rahm Emmanuel does better on this than Daley did. It’s not technically under the mayor, but if Rahm says this has to happen, I am sure it will.

Note that two MWRD Commissioners, Debra Shore and Michael Alvarez appeared at a press event calling for disinfection.

MWRD is going to be forced to disinfect

by Jack Ailey

The U.S. EPA is going to force the MWRD to disinfect the effluent from at least two of its three plants according to articles in the Chicago Tribune. American Rivers has listed the Chicago River as one of the most endangered rivers in the country. See the article by Kari Lyderson. The Chicago Tribune is editorializing that the MWRD must start disinfection.

This is something that Green Party candidates have campaigned on in 2008 and 2010. It seems like common sense. The three Democratic Party candidates who won in 2010 all stated that they favored disinfection although one could question how deeply they were committed to this. Before we know it, the next round of elections will be on us. Let’s see who actually works to get disinfection implemented.

End the Legal Fight over Disinfection

By Jack Ailey

At the Board of Commissioners meeting, Dec. 16, 2010, there was an agenda item to increase the authorized payments to the MWRD lawyers fighting the Illinois Pollution Control Board’s proposed regulations.

This is the text of the proposal:
“Authority to increase purchase order and amend the agreement with Barnes
& Thornburg, for legal services in the pending rulemaking before the Illinois
Pollution Control Board entitled, In the Matter of: Water Quality Standards and
Effluent Limitations for the Chicago Area Waterway System and the Lower
Des Plaines River: Proposed Amendments to 35 Ill.App.Code Parts 301, 302,
303 and 304, R08-09 (Rulemaking-Water), in an amount of $60,000.00, from
an amount of $980,000.00, to an amount not to exceed $1,040,000.00,
Account 101-30000-601170 Purchase Order 3049607″

I was hoping to have a chance to speak against this proposal, but I had to leave before I got that chance. There was a long executive session with various lawyers and I went to the Metropolitan Planning Council session on stormwater.

The MWRD needs to give up this fight. Instead the MWRD needs to start planning how they will implement disinfection. They are wasting money on this legal fight. They should never have even started that fight.

I don’t know how this came out. I assume the increased expense was approved. I would like to know if the newly elected commissioners voted against this. I think they should have, based on their statements during the campaign.

Nadine’s Replies to LWV Questions

Here are the answers that Nadine posted to the League of Women Voters questions.

1. In addition to protecting the quality of the water suppply of Lake Michigan, the mission of the MWRD is to protect businesses and homes from flood damage. GIVEN THE SEVERE FLOODING THAT HAS TAKEN PLACE THIS YEAR, WHAT SHOULD THE MWRD BE DOING NOW AND OVER THE NEXT 6 YEARS (the term of the office you are seeking)TO ELIMINATE OR AT LEAST REDUCE FUTURE FLOODING SOONER RATHER THAN LATER?
Nadine Bopp: There are a myriad of new technologies to prevent flooding. The easiest is to use less water, by changing the building code to low-flow faucets and fixtures. Plant more native plants in public areas, parkways, use permeable paving in all parking lots, alleys and driveways. Make rooftop gardens part of all new construction and subsidize residential rooftop gardens with tax incentives and grants.Develop a program to recreate wetlands throughout the district and regionally. Finally, separate runoff (the most dangerous and polluted) from sewerage. Make gray water systems available in densely populated residential areas and develop large scale black water natural systems in all new development commercial and residential.

2. Currently, the MWRD does not disinfect wastewater from its 3 treatment plants, and the MWRD has been spending money to fight tougher water quality standards that have been proposed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. DO YOU BELIEVE THE WASTEWATER SHOULD BE TREATED? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Nadine Bopp: Yes, bacteria is a deleterious component in the effluence from treated water for humans and other organisms. It not only effects our rivers and streams but 100s of 10000s of people downstream who use these resources for potable water. Bacteria can easily impact all aquatic organisms and spread human disease when it is not removed completely. There are two commonly used technologies to kill bacteria, ozonation and UV light. Both can be done economically using alternative energy sources, thereby helping to reduce global warming and protecting our water. These technologies are currently used successfully in the third world and could be easily implemented in Cook County.

3. If elected, you would be one person among a 9-member board. WHAT ARE 2 OR 3 OF YOUR TOP PRIORITIES AND HOW WOULD YOU SEE THEY ARE DEALT WITH?
Nadine Bopp: Use less water so we clean less. Ameliorate flooding with the incorporation of new technologies Remove ALL pollutants, toxins, radioactive, bacteria and heavy metals from treated effluence. Use solid waste (biosolids from effluence) to produce energy (electricity) to reduce operating costs and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. This will reduce CO2 output and make the district more self-sufficient in case of major climate events Decentralize waste treatment into the communities and ultimately to each residence, building to clean their own water and return it as potable water. This technology is available globally and being employed by future thinking governments

4. WHAT QUALIFIES YOU FOR THIS OFFICE AND WHY SHOULD PEOPLE VOTE FOR YOU?
Nadine Bopp: My environmental expertise and my belief that these technologies and changes are economically, environmentally and ethically necessary. My ultimate goal of decentralization will eliminate the need for this bureaucracy altogether by letting nature and individuals protect and maintain our water supply.

League of Women Voters Questionnaire

by Jack Ailey

Here are the answers I gave to the LWV questionnaire.

Q. 1. In addition to protecting the quality of the water suppply of Lake Michigan, the mission of the MWRD is to protect businesses and homes from flood damage. GIVEN THE SEVERE FLOODING THAT HAS TAKEN PLACE THIS YEAR, WHAT SHOULD THE MWRD BE DOING NOW AND OVER THE NEXT 6 YEARS (the term of the office you are seeking)TO ELIMINATE OR AT LEAST REDUCE FUTURE FLOODING SOONER RATHER THAN LATER?:
A. Very aggressive measures need to be taken to keep storm water out of the sewer system. These methods are known. They include rain barrels and cisterns, green roofs, permeable paving, and rain gardens. Incentives need to be developed to encourage home owners and building owners to adopt these methods. Right now home owners who want to install rain barrels have to pay $50 for each barrel, go out to the Stickney plant to get the barrels and install them themselves. And the home owner gets no monetary advantage for doing this. We need to make it a lot easier for people to install these devices.
Building codes should be revised to force new construction to install water saving devices and the capability of separating sewage from storm water.

Q. 2. Currently, the MWRD does not disinfect wastewater from its 3 treatment plants, and the MWRD has been spending money to fight tougher water quality standards that have been proposed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. DO YOU BELIEVE THE WASTEWATER SHOULD BE TREATED? WHY OR WHY NOT?:
A. Absolutely the waste water must be disinfected before releasing it into the Chicago Area Waterways. We know that contact with this water can make people sick. The MWRD needs to take this next step in upgrading the quality of our river water. People are already going out on the river in kayaks and canoes. They inevitably have some contact with this water. We need to make it safer. This is a public health issue. The MWRD has been wasting money for years on lawyers fighting the proposed upgraded rules. They need to start planning now for how to implement disinfection. When plans are ready, they should try to get some federal funding.

Q. 3. If elected, you would be one person among a 9-member board. WHAT ARE 2 OR 3 OF YOUR TOP PRIORITIES AND HOW WOULD YOU SEE THEY ARE DEALT WITH?:
A. 1. First priority is to start implementing disinfection. Even if all three of us Greens are elected to the board, we would not be a majority. We would have to work hard to convince other Commissioners to agree with us. We can also try to mobilize more public pressure to get this done.
2. Second priority (really equal to above) is aggressive measures to keep storm water out of the sewer system. To get this implemented, we would need to do the same as I mention above.
3. We need plans for how to re-reverse the Chicago River. This is required to disconnect the path for invasive species between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basins. It is also required to conserve water in the Great Lakes in the face of the uncertainty related to climate change.

Q. 4. WHAT QUALIFIES YOU FOR THIS OFFICE AND WHY SHOULD PEOPLE VOTE FOR YOU?:
A. I am committed to the Green Party values of ecological wisdom, grassroots democracy, nonviolence, and social justice. I do not take contributions from corporations. I am totally dedicated to representing what the ordinary people need, not what corporations or political machines need.
I have been studying the issues related to the MWRD since 2008 when I first ran for this office. My experience as a maintenance electrician at a steel mill and for the CTA give me a good background to understand the MWRD plant operations.

The Tribune Says, “Stop Polluting the River”

by Jack Ailey

On Sunday Sept. 5, 2010, the Chicago Tribune published an editorial with the above headline.
Their basic point is what we Greens have been saying since we ran for the MWRD in 2008. The MWRD needs to drop its opposition to disinfection. The public health benefits of disinfection outweigh any projection of what this project might cost.

The Tribune says it will be examining what all the candidates for the MWRD say about this issue. They will find that we three Green Party candidates are solidly for disinfection and have never wavered on this.

Chicago Tribune Says Vote Green for the MWRD (well, not exactly:))

By Jack Ailey

On Friday morning, August 20, the Chicago Tribune ran a front page story highlighting the backward policy of the current MWRD board in fighting disinfection.

The Illinois Pollution Control Board has issued a preliminary rule that would require the MWRD to disinfect the effluent before sending it back into the Chicago Area Waterways. The article points out that nearly all other cities in the U.S. do disinfect their waste water before releasing it. Clear data is presented showing the unsafe levels of bacteria in the Chicago River downstream from the waste treatment plants.

We Green Party candidates for the MWRD have been highlighting the demand that disinfection is clearly necessary since the 2008 campaign. The article doesn’t actually mention the current political campaign, so we can’t exactly claim that the Tribune is saying vote Green. BUT I urge those of you who think this is an important issue to vote for the candidates of the Party which has been highlighting this issue since we became ballot-qualified in the 2008 election.

The article’s author, Michael Hawthorne, has been doing excellent reporting on environmental issues for many years. This current article makes clear why disinfection is necessary.

The basic points, in my opinion, are just the high levels of bacteria in the River and the fact that people are using the River for recreation.

At the same time, Hawthorne allows the current MWRD administration to have their say. They just demonstrate how convoluted and ridiculous their arguments against disinfection are.

So, let’s put environmental priorities at the top of the list at the MWRD. Vote Green for the MWRD.

Yes! Clean Up the River!

By Jack Ailey

Wednesday, June 3, the Chicago Tribune published a front page article pointing out that the U.S. EPA has stated that the Chicago River should be cleaned up to the point where it is safe for people to swim in. In the context of Chicago politics this is a radical idea. Mayor Daley is quoted on the radio as pooh-poohing it. In 1900 the Chicago River was reversed to keep sewage out of our drinking water. Even 110 years later the basic attitude at the MWRD is that the Chicago Area Waterways are sewers. They ask why would want to spend money cleaning it up.

BUT, now even the U.S. EPA has said that the Chicago Area Waterways need to be cleaned up. We Green Party MWRD candidates have been calling for this since the 2008 campaign. All the major environmental organizations have been calling for this for years. As the EPA has pointed out, the Clean Water Act requires that plans be made to bring the Chicago River up to level where it is safe for people to recreate in and on.

A major step in this direction would be to institute disinfection for bacteria at the three sewage treatment plants which do not do this. Yes it will cost some money, but this is people’s health we are trying to protect. The river is a lot cleaner than it was 30 years ago. Many people are out on the river in canoes and kayaks. They come in contact with this water. We need to make it safe.