Flooding complaints are an urgent call to action for water reclamation district
In a recent Sun-Times article, Brett Chase and Caroline Hurley compiled an analysis of 27,000 flooding complaints from the Chicago community. Their analysis revealed both a steady increase in street flooding and the unique struggle faced by South Side neighborhoods. It presented a sobering call to action for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
The MWRD, for which I have served over the last two years, has made real strides to combat flooding in our city. The Tunnel and Reservoir Plan, which created 109 miles of tunnels to contain and reclaim excess sewage and stormwater, is one of the largest civil engineering projects in the world. But the current situation has exposed how much work remains to be done.
Not only must we act to undo the massive flooding in our city, but we must act now, before it gets any worse. Climatologists indicate that record rainfalls still lie ahead of us; with more rainfall comes an even greater risk of flooding. A promising solution has been the TARP program to transport stormwater to our reservoirs, as well as investing in green infrastructure so more rain can be captured onsite. Simply put, we cannot passively stand by and wait for the problem to worsen before combating it.
Flooding is a pressing issue for our city as a whole, but it’s one of many public health issues disproportionately faced by the South Side, where I live. As the Sun-Times explained, Chatham has led flooding-related complaints for the past two years, despite the city’s efforts to improve its sewer lines. Growing up, I remember having to clean up the sludge from our basement after a rainfall. That was the norm for residents of the South Side.
MWRD must, and will, take action by continuing to make investments in stormwater management projects across the region. Cook County residents can play a role, too, by doing more to conserve water at home.
It’s time to fix this issue. Climate change won’t let us wait any longer. Kim Neely DuBuclet, commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District