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.

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.

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.

February 24th, 2016

Cheers for beer!

Several Chicago breweries (including a few Friends of Gabriel) won awards at the recent RATEBEERmedallion-smRateBeer Best Awards Show:

Top 100 Breweries in the World:

Local Indiana favorite Three Floyds Brewing Co.came in #4 in the world.

Top 100 Beers in the World:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Barleywine
  • Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout
  • Three Floyds Zombie King

Best New Brewery (Illinois):

Best 50 New Beers:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Rare (2015 edition)
  • Pipeworks Brewing’s The Lizard King
  • Three Floyds Amber Smashed Face
  • Three Floyds Wigsplitter

Best Pale Lager:

Best Strong Ale:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Barleywine

Best Strong Stout:

  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout – Coffee


Craft Beer website Guys Drinking Beer has a nice summary on all of the local Midwestern award winners, for those who want to dive in a little deeper.

Gabriel is a proud associate member of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.  We work with many brewers around Chicago to help with their environmental compliance and sustainability initiatives.

Cheers to all of the winners!

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

October 1st, 2015

Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference



The first annual Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference (MECC) will be held October 29-30th at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare and will focus on EPA’s Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and 35 tribes).

MECC events are hosted by state business and manufacturing associations and supported by U.S. EPA and State Agencies. These Midwestern environmental conferences:

  • Provide an insider perspective on key regional issues
  • Offer valuable, up-to-date information on rapidly-changing areas of regulation and law
  • Create a forum for valuable networking with regulators, clients and potential clients/customers
  • Foster meaningful, professional conversation with federal, state and local regulators
  • Deliver great speakers and thought leaders with unique insights, real experience, and a seasoned perspective
  • Provide an environmental “boot camp” training opportunity for those relatively new to environmental compliance and permitting or new to a particular environmental medium


Chicago’s conference will include sessions featuring administrators from U.S. EPA and state environmental agencies, including Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR).

Some of the conference sessions will discuss:

  • U.S. EPA Regional Priorities
  • Emerging Water Issues
  • Hot Topics in Remediation and Waste Materials Management
  • Regional Air Issues Roundtable
  • Compliance Auditing

More information, the conference schedule, and registration can be found at mecconference.com.

July 8th, 2015

MWRD Wins Five Platinum Peak Performance Awards

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) recently won five Platinum Peak Performance Awards, signifying 100-percent compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination MWRD colorSystem (NPDES) permits over a consecutive five-year period.

The Calumet WRP received the platinum award for 23 years of 100-percent compliance; followed by the Lemont WRP for 18 years; James C. Kirie WRP in Des Plaines for 10 years; Terrence J. O’Brien in Skokie for nine years; and Hanover Park WRP for seven years.

In addition, MWRD won two Gold Peak Performance Awards for its Egan WRP and Stickney WRP facilities.  This gold level signifies 100-percent compliance with its NPDES permit for one calendar year.

These awards are handed out by the National Association for Clean Water Agencies annually.

Source: Water World, “MWRD earns several Peak Performance Awards for water treatment compliance,” July 2nd, 2015

March 23rd, 2015

NPR highlights Chicago’s wastewater treatment system


As part of WBEZ’s “Curious City” program, Chicago’s NPR station recently featured a segment entitled “Where Does Your Poop Go? A functional journey through the Chicago-area sewer system.

This audio story is now available online and has a companion interactive graphic about the waste treatment process.  This story focuses on residential waste, but industrial wastewater flows into the same sewer system and undergoes this treatment process by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD).

Near the end of the story –  and treatment process – these facilities produce ‘biosolids,’ a nutrient-rich organic material.

“Some biosolids that leave the treatment plant can be spread on some farmland.  These are called ‘Class B biosolids.’

If the biosolids are going to be spread in places where people could touch them – like a park or garden – they need to be processed even more.  These solids are called ‘Class A biosolids.'”

biosolids graphic

Gabriel receives some of these Class A biosolids from MWRD for use in our award-winning garden.  We’re looking forward to the approaching Springtime weather to get our flowers blooming again with the help of this organic material.

If you want to learn more about this wastewater treatment process, WBEZ is hosting a Curious City Live podcast taping at Lincoln Hall tonight, Monday, March 23rd at 7:00 pm.  This “Fecal Matters” show will be kid-friendly and features both what happens to poop at the Lincoln Park Zoo and when you flush at home.

March 19th, 2015

‘Difficult to Manage Waste Streams’ Conference

air and waste management association logo

Join Gabriel at the the Air & Waste Management Association – Lake Michigan State Section (A&WMA-LMSS) for their annual waste conference – “Difficult to Manage Waste Streams.”

During this conference, you will learn the latest information concerning waste management issues, including regulatory updates from Region 5 States.

This conference is designed for everyone in the waste industry with a special emphasis on regulatory matters and how to implement innovative solutions and proven methodologies for working with waste.  Prominent leaders from government, industry, law and consulting will provide attendees with information and insights on a wide range of topics.  Attendees will also have the opportunity to network and meet with other professionals who share similar interests.

Gabriel’s Special Projects Manager Judy Freeman will be speaking on ‘Food Waste – Problems, Approaches, & Technologies’.


Thursday, April 30th, 2015

8:00 am – 5:00 pm

Hyatt Lounge at McDonald’s Campus

2815 Jorie Blvd, Oak Brook, IL 60523


For more information, visit the lmawma.org or download the conference brochure (Waste2015).