16 people gathered along the Chicago River by the Whole Foods at 1550 N. Kingsbury to hear Nick Wesley from Urban Rivers talk about the River and the efforts being made to make it clean, safe and useable. He began by saying that numerous permits, requiring a lot of effort and patience, were required to even get started with the project. He went on to talk about the need for the cleanup, namely that when there is an overflow of water in Chicago the city’s 2 water treatment plans allow raw waste into the river. The city is taking steps to remediate this with adequate underground storage but that is still underway. In the meantime Urban Rivers is using Phytoremediation which involves using plants and their associated microbes, to reduce the concentrations or toxic effects of contaminants in the environment. As the river water passes through “the Wild Mile’s root systems it will be filtered as the roots absorb the water, along with the substances in it.” ()
So far plants have been in place on modules in the river for a year and four months. The modules were assembled on land and anchored in place. (See urbanriv.org for construction details.) Some of the plants in use are Hibiscus, Giant Ironweed, Spike Gayfeather, Canala Columbine, and Liatris Spicata. These are plants identified by name markers. To view a list of other plants used go to.
Vegetables were also planted and then tested for harmful results from the polluted water. Surprisingly most of the vegetables tested were not contaminated except for Kale which had a high lead content. Trees which were planted and are being studied are River Birch and Paw Paw.
There are cameras checking the fish, birds, and wildlife inhabiting the area.
Nick discussed the Robot designed to clean up the River. Hopefully by next year it will be actively cleaning up the debris on the River.