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The Lower Des Plaines River receives almost all point source and urban runoff discharges from the Chicago Metropolitan Area (9.5 million inhabitants). The river was extensively modified and is a part of the Chicago - Illinois River waterway system. It is the largest effluent dominated stream in the US in which more than 80% of flow is from effluents, from the reversal of flow of the Chicago Rivers, and some flow directly from the Lake Michigan. For more than 100 years it was a heavily polluted water body. It received a lesser use designation of “secondary contact recreation and indigenous aquatic life” (Secondary Contact Use) by the State of Illinois in 1970s.

The goal of the Use Attainability Analysis was to upgrade the designated use (Secondary Contact Use) to a higher use that would be commensurate with the goals of the Clean Water Act. The study includes an extensive water body assessment analyzing the chemical, physical (habitat), biological, and bacteriological integrity of the water body and sediments. The investigated segments are two impounded navigational pools on the Lower Des Plaines River. The length of the UAA segment of the river is about 20 km.

The UAA has found that the water quality situation of the river has significantly improved since the 1970s when the Secondary Contact Use designation was defined by the Illinois Pollution Control Board and assigned to the river. The water and sediment quality today is also better than that measured ten years ago. The study defined and suggested a Modified Impounded Use with modified standards for dissolved oxygen and adoption of the general use standards, some of them in a modified form, for other water quality parameters. Standards for limited recreation were also developed. The article concludes with a brief description of the action plan to meet the new enhanced goals for the river.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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