October 19th, 2017

Tour of MWRD’s McCook Reservoir

Gabriel was excited to tour the almost-ready-to-be-opened McCook Reservoir, near MWRD’s Mainstream Pumping Station.  When this reservoir goes online around Thanksgiving, it will hold 3.5 billion gallons of stormwater to help prevent flooding, improve water quality in Chicago area waterways, and protect Lake Michigan from pollution.  Phase II of the McCook reservoir isn’t scheduled to be completed for another 10-12 years, but it will eventually add another 6.5 billion gallons of capacity.


MWRD’s Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) has been process since the initial tunnel construction started in 1975.  The four TARP tunnel systems are designed to flow to three huge reservoirs, and the system will have a total capacity of 20.55 billion gallons when complete. The stored water is then pumped from the reservoirs to water reclamation plants to be cleaned before being released to waterways.

Learn more about how TARP works on the MWRD website.


Stage 1 of McCook Reservoir: the white masts are 150 feet high and will hold aerators to reduce odors

The blocks on the floor of the reservoir will help prevent erosion from the inflow of stormwater

This ramp will stay in place once the reservoir goes online so MWRD can do routine maintenance and cleaning of the reservoir floor. The walls are all surrounded by a ‘grout curtain’ to keep stormwater in and groundwater out.

Stage 2 of McCook Reservoir – still being mined for dolomite limestone.

Stage 2 of McCook Reservoir – some of the mining equipment ready to work.

MWRD’s photo booth

MWRD’s photo booth

MWRD’s photo booth


MWRD’s photo booth


MWRD’s photo booth

August 2nd, 2017

MWRD Offering Limited-Time Tours of Mainstream Pumping Station and McCook Reservoir

For a limited time, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) is offering free tours of its Mainstream Pumping Station and McCook Reservoir this summer and fall.  The tours will give visitors a complete overview of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) system and how it functions to improve local water quality and mitigate flooding throughout Cook County.

McCook Reservoir is scheduled to be completed in late 2017.  It will be the last and largest of three reservoirs being constructed as part of TARP.

Tours are offered:
  • August 6
  • August 27
  • September 17
  • September 24
  • October 1
  • October 15
All tours start at 9am and are expected to last 2 hours.  All ages are welcome.  Wear sturdy shoes and note that shorts, dresses, sandals, and high heels are not allowed.

Tours will include a tour of the pumping station, followed by a bus ride to McCook Reservoir overlook.

MWRD will also offer free tree saplings, compost, photo booth and TARP rock at these events.

Parking is free at the Mainstream Pumping Station (6100 River Road, Hodgkins, IL).

Call 312-751-6632 to reserve your space on one of these tours.  All attendees must RSVP.

More information can be found on MWRD’s Facebook page.

April 12th, 2017

Enjoy MWRD’s Open House – May 20, 2017

As part of their ‘Infrastructure Week,’ Metropolitan Water ReclamationMWRD color District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is opening up six of its water reclamation plants (WRP) for free open houses and tours on May 20, 2017.

Visitors can tour any of the following plants:

  • Calumet WRP, 400 E. 130th St., Chicago
  • Egan WRP, 550 S. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg
  • Hanover Park WRP, 1220 Sycamore Av., Hanover Park
  • Kirie WRP, 701 Oakton St., Des Plaines
  • O’Brien WRP, 3500 Howard St., Skokie
  • Stickney WRP, 6001 W. Pershing Rd., Cicero

MWRD will also be giving away free trees and compost, while supplies last. All ages welcome. No open-toed shoes.

More information can be found on MWRD’s Facebook page.

September 15th, 2016

Want to learn about future swimming plans for the Chicago River?


Real-time water quality information by 2020. Continuous riverfront trails by 2030. Thriving ecosystems by 2040. And yes, swimming.

The first ever unified vision of the Chicago, Des Plaines and Calumet Rivers has recently been released in a publication entitled “Our Great Rivers.”

Learn more about this vision at a roundtable hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Council on Thursday, September 29th, 2016 from 12:00pm – 1:30pm at 140 S. Dearborn St, Suite 1400, Chicago.

 Speakers include:

  • Josh Ellis, Director, Metropolitan Planning Council, and the project lead for Great Rivers Chicago
  • Kim Wasserman Nieto, Executive Director, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
  • John Quail, Director of Watershed Planning, Friends of the Chicago River
  • Arnold Randall (tentative), Superintendent, Forest Preserve of Cook County
  • Commissioner David Reifman, City of Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development

Learn more and register online at www.metroplanning.org/events/roundtable/detail/378

June 15th, 2016

MWRD launches phosphorus recovery system

MWRD’s Stickney Water Reclamation Plant officially launched its phosphorus and nitrogen recovery system in late May.  These excess nutrients can cause algae to grow and bloom in waterways, leading to ‘dead zones’ where aquatic life cannot survive.  Chicago’s rivers lead to the Mississippi River and contribute to this hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

MWRD’s new phosphorus reclamation system will serve a dual purpose: removing harmful nutrients from the Mississippi River waterways and creating fertilizer that can be used on farms.

“What we have is the world’s largest nutrient recovery facility,” said Phillip Abrary, the co-founder, president and chief executive of Ostara, which installed this treatment system at MWRD’s facility. “What it does is essentially recovers the phosphorous and the nitrogen in the wastewater at the Stickney plant and coverts that into a high-grade, slow-release fertilizer that can be used for all sorts of agricultural applications.”

MWRD’s Stickney WRP is the largest water reclamation plant in the world, treating up to 1.44 billion gallons of water each day.  More stringent state and federal regulations compelled MWRD to invest in this new treatment system to remove nutrients prior to discharging into the Chicago River.

In the video below from WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight”, Ostara’s Chief Technology Officer explains how the phosphorus recovery system works at the MWRD Stickney plant:

More information about this nutrient reclamation program can be found on WTTW’s website and on Water World’s website.

April 27th, 2016

Upcoming Great Rivers Chicago meetings


Great Rivers Chicago, an initiative to create a long-term vision for Chicago’s three rivers—Calumet, Chicago and Des Plaines—is gearing up for a release of the vision in early summer 2016.

Learn about the draft vision and provide feedback at these upcoming meetings:


All meetings will be held 6:00 – 7:30, with the main presentation at 6:15 and time for feedback to follow.

Note: Registration is free and, because of space constraints, is advised.

For more information and to register, visit the Great Rivers Chicago event page: http://greatriverschicago.com/Calendar/index.html

March 30th, 2016

MWRD’s disinfection project to make the Chicago River safer for recreation

Ribbon Cutting at the MWRD O'Brien Water Reclamation Plant in Skokie, IL on March 23, 2015

Ribbon Cutting at the MWRD O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant in Skokie, IL on March 23, 2015


Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) officially brought their disinfection project at the O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant online last week.  After nearly a decade of legal battles fighting federal regulations, MWRD agreed in 2011 to install UV equipment to neutralize microbes in the water before it’s released into the North Shore Channel.

Last year, levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the wastewater discharged from this plant averaged 8,449 colony forming units (CFUs) and spiked as high as 210,000 CFUs last year. Illinois’ standard for recreational waterways that are ‘fishable and swimmable’ is 200 CFUs.  The disinfection process won’t reduce the CFUs to a low enough level to make the river safe for fishing or swimming, but will dramatically reduce the health risks for kayakers, canoers, and others who use the Chicago River recreationally.  Fecal coliform bacteria can cause diarrhea, nausea, eye infections and skin rashes if ingested or enter the body through open cuts.

The O’Brien WRP now includes a third treatment stage to its wastewater process:

  1. Primary treatment – screens, settling tanks and other physical processes
  2. Secondary treatment – biological and physical processes
  3. Disinfection treatment – seven channels with 896 powerful UV light bulbs

This plant has the capacity to treat over 450 million gallons per day.

An earlier blog post highlighted a WBEZ ‘Curious City’ story about Chicago’s wastewater treatment process which gives more details about the primary and secondary treatments listed above.

“It’s great this is finally happening,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney for the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the groups that pushed for years to start treating the Chicago River like other U.S. waterways. “But there is a whole lot of work still to be done to make the river as safe and pleasant as we know it can be someday.”

More photos and a video from the disinfection program’s ribbon cutting ceremony can be found on MWRD’s Facebook page.

Source:  “Chicago River cleanup makes water safer for recreation,” March 21, 2016, Chicago Tribune.

January 19th, 2016

MWRD Update meeting at Calumet Area Industrial Commission

Calumet Area Industrial Commission invites all interested parties to attend their upcoming MWRD UpdCAICate meeting with the Executive Director of the MWRD, David St. Pierre.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

7:30 am – 9:30 am

U.S. Bank (CAIC Office – 11th Floor Board Room)

1000 E. 111th St – Chicago


Cost: Free for CAIC members with RSVPs; $20 all others


Mr. St. Pierre will update attendees on the latest Calumet WRP improvements, disinfection, Ordinance changes, resource recovery, User Charge, the regulatory outlook, and more!

Calumet Area Industrial Commission (CAIC) is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization, whose mission is to lead industrial retention and expansion efforts of the Calumet Area in order to create an environment in which the industry will remain and grow.

Find out more at: calumetareaindustrial.com

November 20th, 2015

2016 User Charge Rates Announced

MWRD has announced the 2016 User Charge rates for its Large Commercial-Industrial Users and Tax-Exempt Users. It is generally good news for these communities.  Due to the rate smoothing mechanism worked out between MWRD, industry representatives, Gabriel, and other consultants at the Blue Ribbon Panel, the 2016 rate changes are proportional to last year’s changes, with the exception of the OM&R factor which was not part of the rate smoothing agreement.  As with the 2015 rates, the 2016 rates for industrial users and tax-exempt users are the same.

Volume rates will increase, while BOD and SS rates will be reduced. The OM&R factor will decrease by 12% – however, the decreased OM&R factor is actually an increase in the amount a User owes to MWRD since it is a decrease in the tax credit going towards User Charge.

Volume = $255.02/MG (+1.8% change from 2015)

BOD = $234.95/Klbs (-2.3% change from 2015)

SS = $148.33/Klbs (-3.7% change from 2015)

OM&R factor = $0.344 (-12% change from 2015)

  • MG = million gallons
  • Klbs = thousand pounds
  • OM&R factor: Operations, Maintenance & Replacement Factor; tax credit applied to User Charge fees

We appreciate that MWRD has listened to the concerns of Gabriel and the User community to keep the User Charge rates steady, as well as decrease the burden of the User Charge fees in terms of the total MWRD budget. Overall, Users are responsible for a smaller percentage of MWRD’s Inflow & Infiltration (I&I) fees in 2015/16 than they had been prior to the Blue Ribbon Panel changes.

If you have any questions about how these rate changes will affect your total User Charge fees next year, contact Antonio Tabacchi or Brigid McHale at waterdept[at]gabenv.com or 773-486-2123.

August 12th, 2015

Friends of the Chicago River is seeking Eco-Warriors

Do you love the Chicago River and want to volunteer with Friends of Friends of the Chicago River logothe Chicago River to help improve and protect it?  Become an Eco-Warrior today.

As an Eco-Warrior, you will have the opportunity to:

Learn more about becoming an Eco-Warrior on the Friends of the Chicago River website.