Chicago. The third largest city in the United States of America, located in the state of Illinois, is known worldwide for its vibrant modern landscape. from any part of mega metropolis Its towering skyscrapers, including the John Hancock Center and the Chicago Tribune, and the richness of its tree-dotted green spaces are nearly impossible to miss.
One of the elements that is undoubtedly part of the DNA of this city is the Chicago River. We’re talking about 200+ kilometers of water flowing southwest into the Mississippi. But there was a time when this river flowed into the vast Lake Michigan. His diversion project has been named “one of the Seven Wonders of American Engineering”.
Solution, direction change
At the end of the 19th century, Chicago was one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but as the number of residents skyrocketed, a threat loomed on the horizon. sewage overflowed independently and untreated Lake Michigan, the main source of drinking water for the city, led to a series of serious health problems.
In 1854, cholera killed more than 1,400 people, according to the Chicago Encyclopedia, while other infectious diseases such as typhoid fever also threatened the health of millions of others. Decades later, in 1885, a severe storm impressed upon the authorities the need to quickly resolve a situation that seemed to be spiraling out of control.
As a result of that climatic event, the river released large amounts of contaminated water and threatened the city’s drinking water supply. Thus, in 1889, the Illinois General Assembly created Chicago Sanitation District (now renamed the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District) with the purpose of “protecting the health and safety of citizens and waterways”.
One of the ideas that came out of the newly formed organization was to permanently alter the flow of the Chicago River. It was a medium-term solution that would require years of work, millions of dollars of investment and, moreover, would face an avalanche of criticism. For some the project was viable but risky, but for others an absurd idea that should not proceed.
According to data from the Chicago Water Walk, thousands of workers began construction of a massive canal more than 25 miles long that connected to the Des Plaines River carrying the city’s sewage. heard in mississippi, Since the channel was designed to deepen as it moves west, most of the work would be done by gravity.
Already in the new century, in 1900, a mechanical shovel released the last dam’s containment system that separated the Chicago River from the new channel. Eventually, the river began to feed water from Lake Michigan instead of depositing it in it. That ambitious and daring plan paid off, one of the feats of the time (which still amazes today).
Over the years, Chicago continued to work on its sanitation and purification systems. In 1948, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was inaugurated. mission accomplished The canal was first constructed and later designated as a National Heritage Area. In addition, the river has been subjected to thorough clean-up operations on several occasions.