Minimize the risk of water contamination
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) challenges Cook County residents to help the MWRD minimize the risk of nutrient contaminants – such as phosphorus and nitrogen – and debris from entering our local waterways. Preventive actions, along with simple to modest lifestyle changes, can result in cleaner, safer and healthier waterways. MWRD’s “A healthy waterway begins with you: A Guide to Water Wellness” offers several prevention tips along with #Water Wellness facts that you and your family can use in your personal, social and work life. Collectively, we can reduce nutrient contamination and pollution in our waterways.
Water is a Valuable Resource
Water is one of the world’s most valuable resources. Covering about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, water is essential to our everyday life. Everyone has a right to clean water, so protecting it from contamination is important.
Identifying Contaminants in or Near Your Home
Many common household products could contribute to water contamination. For example, shampoos and body cleansers could contain compounds like phosphorus, phosphate, sulfates and nitrogen. These chemicals contribute to nutrient contamination in the waterways. Other potential contaminants include: chlorides, microbeads, paint, pet waste, detergents, stormwater runoff, medication and yard waste. To minimize or avoid the risk of water contamination, the MWRD encourages you to do the following:
You can call 1-800-332-DUMP (3867) or (855) 332-4801 (Spanish) to report waterway blockages, illegal or suspicious dumping to waterways or sewers, odors and dead fish. To submit your report online, click here.
Water Wellness Fact: Nutrient pollution is the process where too many nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, are added to bodies of water and can act like fertilizer, causing excessive growth of algae and aquatic plants.
The Environmental Impact of Water Contamination
About 21 percent of the world's supply of surface fresh water is found in the Great Lakes Region. When our water source becomes polluted, the effect can be widespread. Along with endangering aquatic and wildlife, contaminants can make our drinking water unsafe and threaten our recreational activities. Poor water quality can also devastate a community’s health and livelihood. Preventive steps we each take today are giant leaps towards helping the MWRD fulfill its mission to protect and improve the quality of our water supply source (Lake Michigan).
How the MWRD is Protecting Our Waterways
The MWRD is working hard to decrease the amount of nutrients entering the waterways. Our goal is to reduce phosphorus discharge by 90 percent. To help reach our goal, we partnered with Ostara in 2016 to open the world’s largest nutrient recovery facility at our Stickney Water Reclamation Plant (WRP) in Cicero. The facility works to recover phosphorus and nitrogen from the water treatment process to create a high value fertilizer called Crystal Green.
Thanks to this facility, we’ll recover up to 85 percent of phosphorus and 15 percent of nitrogen from Stickney’s sidestream treatment streams.
Recovering Resources for Beneficial Reuse
Phosphorus is a non-renewable resource that is essential for life. On estimate, there are fewer than 100 years of phosphorus reserves remaining worldwide. Capturing and removing phosphorus from the water and returning it to productive use represents a significant shift in the used water industry from being a treatment facility to a recovery center. Additionally, our nutrient recovery efforts provide significant benefits to the Chicago Area Waterways (CAWS) as well as downstream to the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico.