Serving the Second City

Sept. 17, 2013
Water reclamation district to offer facility tours during WEFTEC.13

About the author: Kathleen Meany is president of the MWRD board. Meany can be reached at [email protected] or 312.751.5636. David St. Pierre is executive director of MWRD. St. Pierre can be reached at [email protected] 312.751.7900. Amy McIntosh is associate editor for Water & Wastes Digest. McIntosh can be reached at [email protected] or 847.954.7966.


WWD Associate Editor Amy McIntosh asked Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) Board President Kathleen Meany and Executive Director David St. Pierre about the district’s latest initiatives and what WEFTEC.13 attendees can expect to see.

Amy McIntosh: What services does MWRD provide?

Kathleen Meany: Established in 1889, MWRD is an award-winning, special-purpose government agency responsible for wastewater treatment and storm water management in Cook County, Ill. MWRD has seven wastewater treatment facilities that provide residential and industrial wastewater treatment for 5 million residents in Cook County. MWRD treats an average of 1 billion gal per day of wastewater.

MWRD is known for its Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP), designed to significantly reduce the pollution and flooding problems associated with combined sewer overflows (CSO) in the Chicagoland area. Phase 1 of TARP was primarily designed for pollution control, and includes 109 miles of deep tunnels, capable of capturing 2.3 billion gal of CSO during storm events and storing the polluted water until it can be pumped back to the water reclamation plant to be fully treated and discharged to the waterways. The Thornton, McCook and Majewski Reservoirs comprise Phase 2 of TARP, which was designed for flood control but will also provide additional pollution control benefits.

In 2004, the Illinois legislature named MWRD as the regional storm water management agency for Cook County. MWRD is in the planning phase for 31 projects designed to address regional overbank flooding and critical streambank erosion.

MWRD is the second-largest landholder in Cook County, and we lease much of this property for a nominal fee to communities so the public may benefit from parks and recreation and green space to enhance the quality of life. 

McIntosh: What are some of MWRD’s latest sustainability initiatives?

David St. Pierre: MWRD is reinventing itself from a waste disposal utility into a resource recovery utility. The district has set the ambitious goal of becoming energy neutral in 10 years. To accomplish this, MWRD is studying process changes and conservation measures that will reduce energy consumption, while implementing new technologies to produce energy on site.

One of MWRD’s visions is working to increase the quantity of biogas generated through process changes and the addition of external feedstock to anaerobic digesters. Co-digestion of treatment plant solids with the addition of high-strength organic solids and waste material from sources such as institutional food waste, food processing waste, high-strength industrial waste, oils and grease could double the biogas production at MWRD’s facilities such as the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant (WRP).

MWRD also awarded a contract to Black & Veatch/Ostara for recovery of phosphorus at the Stickney WRP. Other construction contracts were awarded for disinfection facilities at the Calumet and O’Brien WRPs, where construction will begin this fall; this aggressive schedule will allow these facilities to be online for the 2016 recreational season.

McIntosh: What can visitors expect during MWRD’s WEFTEC.13 facility tours?

St. Pierre: Visitors will be touring the Stickney WRP, the largest wastewater treatment facility in the world, and the Thornton Reservoir, part of TARP, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. The Thornton Reservoir will protect 182,000 structures and serve 556,000 people in 14 communities throughout the south side of Chicago and south suburbs of Cook County. It will provide 7.9 billion gal of storage and $40 million per year in flood control benefits. 

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