My fellow Commissioner at MWRD, Mariyana Spyropoulos, six MWRD staff members, and I had the privilege of volunteering at the Chicago regional Future City competition held at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Future City competition gives 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students from across the country the opportunity to design cities with simulation software, build scale models, write essays, and give oral presentations on their city’s design. This year’s theme was “Clean Water: Tap into Tomorrow.” Congratulations to Prairie Junior High School as the first place winners, with their city “Neositnalta.” Regional winners will face off in the finals in Washington, DC in February, where they are joined by international teams.
A diverse range of green infrastructure projects were selected for funding and support from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to collect more water and combat flooding in a natural setting. 20 green infrastructure projects have been selected across Cook County to provide funding and other assistance after a call for projects was held last summer. After a thorough evaluation, the MWRD chose projects that work to improve quality of life and mitigate flooding. These projects include permeable parking lots and alleys, bike trails, and bioswale installations. Keep a look out for them in the future! See the full list of projects here.
To reduce the use of herbicides, clear out shrubs, trim back overgrowth, remove invasive plants, and maintain landscaping in hard to reach stretches of the MWRD property, the MWRD temporarily hired 50 goats and sheep at our Lemont Water Reclamation Plant. Over a four week period, these hard workers trimmed the grounds covering several acres! They moved quickly across inaccessible areas, while also eliminating the MWRD’s need for herbicides or fuel to power lawn mowers. This was a creative non-toxic landscaping idea, which is important to our no pesticide policy. Watch the video to see them in action!
Goat Landscaping at the Lemont Water Reclamation Plant
November 27, 2019
We were absolutely honored to be able to interview Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz, who is the founder of the award-winning anthology series, "Today's Inspired Latina." The books are filled with inspirational and poignant stories of success in the face of adversity to motivate others to persevere over self-doubt and obstacles.
Camacho-Ruiz is truly a force to be reckoned with and a positive role-model and empowering guiding light in the Latinx community. In this interview, she speaks about how her books got started, the power of a unified community, her fight as a two-time cancer survivor, her piloting experience, and so much more. Watch the interview here.
Last week at the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, we came together for valuable conversations about how we can be sustainable stewards for our environment. We are proud that the MWRD is leading the way for nature-based solutions to flooding. MWRD Civil Engineer, John Watson, talked about how smart, strategic green infrastructure will reduce flooding, basement backups, and combined sewer overflows. Other speakers talked about their beneficial use of MWRD EQ biosolids on their parks and land. The MWRD produces approximately 145,000 tons of biosolids annually, and 98 percent of all biosolids products are beneficially reused.
We had so much fun at our first Road Show! Don't worry if you missed it - we have another Road Show event coming up on November 16th. Save the date for a one stop shop for: a farmer's market, individual resume reviews, job and business opportunities, STEM activities, enter a free drawing to win a rain barrel, and learn more about the work we do to protect and improve our water environment! As an added bonus, the Cook County Sheriff's Office is collecting medications, electronics, and paper for proper and safe disposal so you won't want to miss this event!
National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States began on September 15 and ends on October 15. To celebrate, the MWRD recognized local organizations on Mexican Independence Day such as the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Latin@s Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science (L@S GANAS) Program. Led by Director Veronica I. Arreola, L@S GANAS focuses on building an essential science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline for first-generation students of color.
¡Viva México! ¡Viva el agua! We floated down 26th Street in Little Village to spread the good word about clean water and to celebrate Mexican independence!
Mexico’s independence day is September 16 and is commonly confused as Cinco de Mayo in the US. It's a national holiday in Mexico and is a reenactment of the historical moment from the revolution's leader, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest who made the first cry for independence. Learn more about Mexican Independence Day here.
Did you know the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has two amazing boats that work tirelessly to keep the Chicago River clean? Named "Skim Pickens" and the other "Skimmy Dipper", these boats work Monday through Friday and cruise the river scooping up the cans, cups, wrappers, and bottles that, one way or another, wind up in the water. Some of the stranger things they've picked up include mattresses, garbage cans, basketballs, and couches. Read more here!
Every summer since 1929, “The Bud” has united African-Americans throughout the city of Chicago in music, dance, food, and laughter! Our team enjoyed celebrating 90 years of the Bud Billiken Parade with the MWRD and President Kari K. Steele!
✨If anyone is interested in volunteering with our team at an event, like a parade, please email ✨
A new interview is out with Brian Perkovich and Catherine O' Connor, about the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) and the roles that they play with their positions as the Executive Director (Brian) and Director of Engineering (Catherine).
A great video to learn about our team and what the MWRD does!
Commissioner Avila Speaks - Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD)
July 31, 2019
A new website has been unveiled this week to connect the public to the innovative and essential services the MWRD provides. Click here to visit the website!
It has a fresh look with new content, an improved search engine, video content, and easy connection to our MWRD social media sites for citizens to stay up to date! We have a lot of resources to educate the public on water quality issues, resources recovery efforts, MWRD events, and job opportunities.
In recognition of Pride Month, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago raised the Pride flag for the first time outside our headquarters on Erie Street off the Magnificent Mile. This year was the 50th-anniversary of the raid on the Stonewall Inn that led to the gay liberation movement. We hope everyone had a wonderful pride season and continues to support the path for LGBTQ+ rights!
We're accepting applications from municipal, township and county agencies within Cook County to fund projects that utilize green infrastructure until August 9th. We are the regional stormwater authority for Cook County and our recent projects chosen for funding and assistance have included permeable parking lots, rain gardens, bioswales, and green alleys. Eligibility requirements and instructions are included in the application form which can be found here.
Our team went out on a cloudy Monday to film how MWRD's water pollution experts collect samples for the labs to test the channel water's pH, dissolved oxygen, and fecal coliform levels, amongst other things. They also touch on why this work is important and the impact it has on the water and animal environment. Keep a look out for the video coming out soon.
This Saturday is Chicago River Day! Commissioner Avila and his team will be at Eugene Field Park to volunteer and clean up the riverside. Volunteers can show up at any of the 60+ sites. This is a family-friendly event, rain or shine!
Commissioner Avila Speaks
Come see Commissioner Avila speak about the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the agency that handles all the wastewater in Cook County, at the First Congregational Church of Berwyn.
Upcoming Events with Commissioner Avila, New Interviews, and New Job Openings
May 8, 2019
MWRD in partnership with the IEPA hosted a Household Hazardous Waste Collection event at Brookfield Zoo. Household hazardous waste such as drain cleaners, motor oil, solvents, and antifreeze pose a threat to the environment. If consumer product labels include “danger,” “warning,” or “caution”, that is an indication that the product should be disposed of in a special manner. Commissioner Frank Avila was out bright and early to work the line. Special thanks to all those who participated!
Over 1,300 Cars Came to Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day
April 24, 2019
The Illinois EPA's Office of Energy has awarded more than $2.1 million in grant funding to four wastewater treatment facilities across Illinois. The projects will reduce the amount of energy consumed by wastewater treatment operations thereby reducing the energy burden for Illinois residents. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which has the largest wastewater facility in the world, was awarded $1,500,000!
MWRD Gets $1.5 Million Grant to Boost Energy Efficiency
April 10, 2019
Trees provide a beautiful green canopy for our communities and are a powerful and effective form of green infrastructure. A medium-sized oak tree can help prevent flooding and improve water quality by absorbing 2,800 gallons of rainfall per year. MWRD provides four types of native trees (bur, pin, red, and swamp white oak) for free to Cook County residents, community groups, and schools.
Beginning in April, Cook County residents can also pick up free 20 lb. bags (limit 2) of our EQ compost at these locations every Wednesday as well from 9am-noon.
Restore the Canopy is Back, Alongside FREE EQ Compost for Your Gardens!
March 27, 2019
Commissioner Frank Avila was the special guest at the USA premiere of an environmental documentary called “RoundUp Faces Its Judges” at the Oak Park Public Library on March 5th. Marie-Monique Robin, French journalist & filmmaker, focuses on the uses of harmful glyphosate-based herbicides around the world and highlights Monsanto Company as the center of one of the greatest environmental and health scandals in modern history. The film showcases a chemical that is showing up everywhere - in the soils, water, food, and air.
A Successful USA Premiere for New Environmental Documentary
March 13, 2019
Commissioner Frank Avila has been busy in Hyderabad, India this past weekend as the Chairman to the Water & Waste Management International Conference & Expo. India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with Hyderabad being the 5th largest city that provides a home to over 8 million people.
He traveled to the other side of the world to convene with the world's experts on water & waste solutions and to share the lessons that MWRD has learned in our 130 years of existence.
The Curtains Close on a Successful Water & Waste Management Conference!
February 27, 2019
National Engineers Week falls on February 17-23 in 2019 and is meant to call attention to the contributions to society that engineers make. It is also a time to emphasize the importance of learning math, science, and technical skills.
This week, we are highlighting the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), a national organization of professional engineers to serve as role models in the Hispanic community. Commissioner Frank Avila, who has been a civil engineer for over 50 years and the son of Mexican immigrants, is very passionate about their mission and has interviewed Rodrigo T. Garcia, the Founder and First President of SHPE.
On January 19th, Commissioner Frank Avila, President Kari K. Steele, and Commissioner Kimberly du Buclet joined the judge's table at the Future City Competition. The program is for students across the country to take principles discussed in school and translate them into solutions for real-world problems. As a STEM-focused activity, (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) these type of curricular activities can enhance student awareness and provide the opportunity to learn about available STEM-related career options.
Chicago's Future City Competition Drives Students to Pursue STEM Careers
January 30, 2019
The MWRD Board elected new leadership on Thursday, January 10, 2019. Congratulations to Commissioner Kari K. Steele who was elected as the new President of the MWRD Board and to Commissioner Barbara McGowan who was re-elected as Vice President. I’m humbled to be re-elected as Chairman of Finance. Thank you to my fellow commissioners for their support in my continued leadership. Also, thank you to outgoing President Mariyana Spryopoulos for her 4 years of service and dedication leading the MWRD Board.
MWRD maintains AAA bond rating from Fitch Ratings and AA+ bond rating from Standard and Poor’s.
McCook Reservoir Stage I:
Protects against combined sewer overflows & alleviates flooding for 37 suburban communities. Construction is ongoing for stage 2 which will add an additional 6.5 billion gallon capacity, totaling a 10 billion gallon collection tank.
Commissioner Frank Avila visited the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant on November 13th, 2018 to unveil the new $224.8 million energy-efficient infrastructure upgrade to keep operations flowing at one of the world’s largest wastewater treatment plants. The nearly 4-year project will improve operations and reduce odor issues associated with the wastewater treatment process at SWRP, where up to 1.44 billion gallons of water are treated per day for 2.3 million people living across 260 square miles of Cook County, including downtown Chicago and 46 other municipalities.
New Infrastructure at MWRD's Stickney Plant for Improved Odor Control & Energy Savings
November 28, 2018
In honor of Veterans Day this week, we wanted to highlight environmentally friendly Veteran organizations that provide support and community to our heroes while they push for a better future for all. During this important time, it is crucial to thank our heroes for their service and support their families, businesses, and organizations.
Happy Veterans Day & thank you veterans for your service!
November 14, 2018
Commissioner Frank Avila presented a resolution to Bhaskar Chilukuri, president and founder of Green Brigade Org, based in Hyderabad, India.
While the MWRD has planted more than 50,000 tree saplings throughout Cook County, Green Brigade set the standard, planting 1 million saplings in 1 day! Working with students from 3,716 schools, the Green Brigade planted in the Nalgonda District in the Telangana state of India.
Check out the awards MWRD won during the month of October! Awards include the The Water Environment Federation (WEF) Project Excellence Award for the McCook Reservoir, second place at WEFTEC in the Intelligent Water Systems Challenge, and The National Biosolids Partnership Platinum Award from NBP for a sustainable biosolids program that benefits the environment.
On Tuesday, July 31st, Chicago's oldest, shortest, and only waterfall began to come down for good. The demolition process of the 100 year-old, four-foot waterfall, or dam, began in hopes of a better future for Chicago River water quality and aquatic life.The US Army Corps of Engineers is tearing down the dam with financial support from the MWRD and Chicago Park District. It is located where the north branch of the Chicago River meets the North Shore Channel and was built by the MWRD in 1910. Goodbye, useless wall. Hello, new life!
Extreme weather patterns such as heat waves, heavy downpours, droughts, and floods are increasing due to record high average temperatures. Since record-keeping began 123 years ago, the five hottest years on record in the country have been in the last decade. Humans must adapt. One method is investing in green infrastructure, like rain garden development, rain barrel installment, and increased land conservation.
From the never-ending Flint Crisis to the endangered rivers in the U.S. to the count down until Day Zero, it isn't difficult to find alarming news about the planet's fresh water. And with the constant media overload, it might feel like there's no hope. Have no fear, the MWRD is here!The MWRD has created an informative guide about ways you can personally make a change. In this guide, you will find not only tips, but also descriptions about why taking these actions will multiply with group participation.
"Sikh American Awareness & Appreciation Day" resolution adopted by MWRD
June 12, 2018
Sunday marked Rachel Carson's 111th birthday. Rachel Carson is known to be a catalyst in the contemporary environmental movement that started in the 1970s. She had a gentle approach to writing while still managing to get a critical message across - the natural world is in danger.
Rachel Carson showed us how to revere our natural world; how to protect it; how to be gentle with it. Let's continue her legacy by being mindful of our actions' consequences on the environment around us.
Spring has sprung, which means it's time to think about summer internships! The MWRD is offering paid and unpaid internships in affirmative action, finance, public affairs, plant operations, and more. Internships may also fulfill the requirements for academic credit.
Commissioner Frank Avila partnered with Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC) in June 2016 in order to reduce herbicide application on Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) property by 92%. Starting on May 11 until May 19, MPAC, MWRD, and many other organizations will kickoff Chicago Grows Green (CGG) Week in order to educate the public about the dangers of synthetic chemicals and promote safer alternatives. What kind of future do we want? One with no pesticides, no “Keep off the Grass” signs, and no environmental and health risks.
As temperatures increase and layers of warm clothing are shed, Chicagoans are getting ready for the greatest time of year. Patios are opening. Tulips and oaks are blooming. Farmers and gardeners are uncovering beds. And door-to-door lawn care solicitations are in full swing.
But buyers beware! When it comes down to it, pesticides and herbicides are chemicals designed to kill and disrupt natural systems. The killing power of these chemicals is greater than just targeting one specific target since air transports trillions and trillions of particles every second. Spraying a deadly chemical with the intention of killing only one target is not possible.
Saturday, April 28th is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. This day is particularly important to water districts because it means that less medication will end up down the drain and at wastewater treatment plants. Please drop off your unused medication at one of the following MWRD water reclamation plants, or search your zip code here.
O'Brien - 3500 Howard Street, Skokie
Stickney - 6001 West Pershing Road, Cicero
Calumet - 400 East 130th Street, Chicago
What's the first thing you think of when you hear "goddess"? It would probably be safe to assume that it's not sewers! This Women's History Month, take a moment to learn about Cloacina, the Goddess of the Sewers.
In the late 500's B.C.E., Rome's network of sewers, also known as the Cloaca Maxima, were built. For fear of sewer back up, the Romans nurtured the goddess who would make sure that the streets were clean of human waste. The goddess: Cloacina. Not only was Cloacina seen as the goddess of sewers, but she was also seen as the goddess of purity, as she was in charge of cleaning out all of the sewers.
Women's history month spotlight: goddess of the sewer
March 20, 2018
Mark your calendars! The MWRD will be offering free tours of six water reclamation plants in May. Participants at all locations will be given buckets of compost and 18” oak tree saplings as part of the “Restore the Canopy" program. Remember to upload your photos with the handle #TimeToBuild, which will be used nationwide for National Infrastructure Week!
This week, the US recognizes and celebrates engineers all around the country. From the beginning of time, humans have used their intelligence to build things to make life easier, from water pumps to compost centers to the McCook Reservoir! Thank you, engineers, for your hard work and life changing accomplishments. We can't imagine a world with you!
Between the 500 million chickens killed to produce 1 billion chicken wings, the millions of gallons of beer consumed, and the 310,000 pounds of carbon emissions generated, it's safe to say that the Super Bowl is built around consumption. Host committees are taking steps to offset their environmental footprint, however. For instance, this year's committee made the ambitious goal to be the first zero-waste football event. Let's check out previous committees' efforts to reduce their environmental footprint.
Viewing the super bowl through an environmental lens
January 31, 2018
At 8,776 square miles, last year's dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico was the largest ever measured. The body of water is uninhabitable for marine life due to spurring algae growth and choking oxygen levels. How does Chicago play into this environmental disaster? What is being done to tackle this issue? And how can you be a part of the solution?
Understanding Chicago's role in the Gulf of Mexico dead zone
January 17, 2018
There won't be a new you in the new year without cutting out sugar from your diet. Cutting out sugar is no easy feat because sugar is everywhere. Did you know that of all the packaged foods in the grocery store, 74% of them are spiked with added sugar? This includes salad dressing, tomato sauce, hamburger buns and meat, yogurt, and orange juice.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) has once again proven that hard work, determination, and persistence pay off. The Collateral Channel on 31st and Albany is on its way to becoming what community members want it to be: beautiful and habitable! The MWRD will launch a pilot project later this month to clean toxins in the canal. LVEJO's ultimate goals are to have a clean waterway for community members to enjoy and for aquatic and land animals to live in and around a natural oasis.
LVEJO perseveres in improvement of Collateral Channel
December 20, 2017
The McCook Reservoir was formally unveiled on Monday with the MWRD and project partner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (5th), U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (3rd), municipal leaders and officials with the U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA to celebrate cleaner water and protection from flooding for 3.1 million area residents.
Stage I of the McCook Reservoir can hold 3.5 billion gallons of storage capacity and will protect residents of Chicago and 36 suburban communities from flooding.