Flood­ing com­plaints are an ur­gent call to ac­tion for water recla­ma­tion dis­trict

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

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

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