Chicago River E. coli Study

In spring 2016 wastewater disinfection began at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant located on the Chicago River system in Skokie, IL. Effluent from that plant is discharged into the North Shore Channel and flows downstream to the North Branch of the Chicago River and beyond. On-the-water recreation activities such as rowing, canoeing, boating, and fishing are common on these segments of the waterways system.

Because little is known about fecal indicator bacteria levels in the river system post disinfection, in 2018 Friends of the Chicago River asked researchers at University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health (UIC) to evaluate fecal indicator (E. coli) bacteria levels upstream and downstream of the O’Brien Water Reclamation Plant. The goal of that evaluation was to characterize water quality, compare it to water quality prior to the implementation of disinfection, and to generate hypotheses about sources of pollution that might be controlled in order to improve water quality.

View or download the complete report Water Quality Analysis: E.coli Bacteria Levels at Five Water Recreation Areas on the Chicago Area Waterways System.