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How Climate Change Is Making This River Run Backwards
By Henry Henderson
That's the number of gallons of contaminated Chicago River water that have flowed into Lake Michigan—source of drinking water and quality of life for millions of Americans—in the last decade. The river normally flows away from the lake, so what gives?
Blame climate change. And infrastructure not designed or built to deal with the changes brought the changing climate.
Violent storms dump an incredible volume of rain in very short periods of time. Even with massive additions to the region's stormwater system, it cannot keep up. When that system cannot handle intense rainfall over the area, sewers fill and dump into the River. When the Chicago River fills with all that stormwater, which is now contaminated with all kinds of nasty stuff after comingling with whatever was in the sewer lines, it swells. And after a while, well, gravity takes over. The river level rises above the lake level and water heads downhill. The Chicago River literally changes direction and flows out into Lake Michigan.
"If you are in the business I am in, you absolutely believe in climate change. We are seeing more intense, shorter duration rain events. We used to see several years in a row where we wouldn't have any reversals. But lately we are experiencing reversals at least once a year."
He would know. MWRD manages the stormwater infrastructure for Chicagoland, a massive swath of pipes, pits and tunnels underlaying nearly 900 square miles.
Which is all a long way around to saying, I can think of 33 billion other reasons for the Trump administration to rethink its rumored departure from the Paris climate accords. Chicago is hardly the only city which will face immense costs if this country does not seriously address climate change in the face of startling problems already visible today.
Henry Henderson is director of the Midwest program at Natural Resources Defense Council.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
At EcoWatch, our team knows that changing personal habits and taking actions that contribute to a better planet is an ongoing journey. Earth Day, happening on April 22, is a great reminder for all of us to learn more about the environmental costs of our behaviors like food waste or fast fashion.
To offer readers some inspiration this Earth Day, our team rounded up their top picks for films to watch. So, sit back and take in one of these documentary films this Earth Day. Maybe it will spark a small change you can make in your own life.
On Friday, Seal Rescue Ireland released Sesame the seal into the ocean after five months of rehabilitation at the Seal Rescue Ireland facility. Watch the release on EcoWatch's Facebook.
By Jordan Davidson
Guinness is joining the fight against single use plastic. The brewer has seen enough hapless turtles and marine life suffering from the scourge of plastic.
People of all ages are spending more of their day looking at their phones, computers and television screens, but parents now have another reason for limiting how much screen time their children get — it could lead to behavioral problems.