American Society of Civil Engineers


The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago: Our Second Century of Meeting Challenges and Achieving Success


by Joseph T. Zurad, (Chief Engineer, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, 100 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611), Joseph P. Sobanski, (Assistant, Chief Engineer, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, 100 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611), Joseph R. Rakoczy, (Supervising Civil Engineer, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, 100 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611), and Richard Lanyon, (Director of Research and Development, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, 100 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611)
Section: Environmental Engineering History and Developments, pp. 22-33, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/40650(2003)3)

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Environmental and Water Resources History
Abstract: Sited on a marshy, level lake plain with small, sluggish natural rivers and streams, throughout its existence Chicago (chartered 1837) has been faced with a multitude of drainage and water-related public health challenges ranging from mid to late 19th century typhoid, cholera, and dysentery epidemics, to latter day combined sewer overflow waterway pollution, overbank and sewer backup flooding, and lake beach closings due to contaminated river backups induced by severe rainstorms. These problems stem from Chicago’s tremendous growth, which to varying degrees has continually strained and sometimes breached the natural and manmade water/wastewater infrastructure. The Sanitary District of Chicago (in 1989 renamed the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago) was created in 1889 to restore and maintain water-related public health by protecting Lake Michigan — the area’s main drinking water supply — from sewage contamination. It did so in a pioneering way that captured the attention of the world, contributed to a Chicago reputation later verbalized as a positive "make no small plans" attitude, significantly advanced civil engineering and civil works construction technology and techniques, and helped spur other major earth moving projects elsewhere. As Chicago urbanized and industrialized further, and as environmental science and conscience heightened so as to recognize the need for higher water quality standards, new water management challenges arose which the District addressed, and continues to address, by undertaking a succession of other notable civil works efforts.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Chicago
Illinois
Water reclamation