San Diego, CA
Chicago River - Beauty And Headache
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© Christine Till
The Chicago River flows through urban and suburban communities, forest preserves, parks, industrial corridors, and downtown Chicago, supporting more than six million residents. Used for fishing, boating, transportation, and shipping, and featuring new riverfront amenities, the river is a significant economic asset. Once a corridor of commercial activity, the river has been transformed into a recreational area with sightseeing boats and kayaks. Along the banks are pedestrian friendly promenades lined with cafes and eateries.
Throughout the city and its nearby suburbs, 45 movable bridges span the Chicago river, many of them well-known and quite picturesque. Many of Chicago's greatest buildings border the Chicago river, making the river ideal for architectural boat tours. In 1999 Chicago's mayor Richard M. Daley initiated a project to turn Chicago's riverfront - at that time mostly inaccessible to the public - into a public walkway known as the Riverwalk. The first completed section, on the south bank of the river between State Street and Lake Michigan opened in 2009. Cafes line the popular walkway and you can find attractions such as boat cruises and water taxis along the way. A modern day miracle occurs each year as part of the St. Patrick's Day Parade celebration when the Chicago River turns an incredible shade of Irish green - probably with a little help from a leprechaun who seems to just appear at this time each year.
Since the 1980s, water quality in the Chicago River has significantly improved, and populations of fish and wildlife, such as eagle, beaver, and mink, have increased. But a lot of work still needs to be done. The Chicago River is one of the only rivers in the U.S. where undisinfected sewage is dumped into the river. Every day, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) dumps 1.2 billion gallons of undisinfected wastewater into the river. This wastewater comprises 70 percent of all the water in the Chicago River, and threatens the health of area residents. In contrast, nearly all other sewage dischargers in large US cities - and most smaller ones as well - disinfect their wastewater.
January 15th, 2013
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