Is there sewage in the Chicago River?

An online platform providing real time information about the dumping of sewage into a river.

Whenever Chicago gets a lot of rain or there’s a significant snowmelt, the Chicagoland water management agencies must dump excess wastewater into the lake and river in order to prevent flooding. It’s because of practices like these that the city reversed Chicago River’s flow in 1900 to avoid contaminating our drinking supply. As a result, a significant amount of ‘nutrient pollution’ from Chicago travels down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and collects in the Gulf of Mexico in a dead zone roughly the size of New Hampshire.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago tracks the release of raw sewage released in to Chicago area rivers. Through this application, citizens of Chicago are informed about the current status of the rivers. Since January 1st 2007, raw, untreated sewage has been dumped in to rivers on 522 days. Data comes from scraping the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago portal on Combined Sewer Overflows.

The basic features of the platform are:

  • A central notification about the current state of the Chicago Rivers related to whether raw sewage is being dumped at the time of the visit.
  • A history of the reported events of combined sewer overflows in the area of Chicago Rivers.

This website is used by the city of Chicago.