Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
Marks 130 Years of Service
Compost, trees and rain barrels do not necessarily come to mind when considering the work of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The organization serves Chicago and 128 suburban communities to protect area water quality in both local waterways and the drinking water supply in Lake Michigan, while also working to minimize flooding across Cook County.
Over 130 years, the MWRD’s scope has evolved beyond protecting local water resources to pursuing innovative ways to recover other resources. One example is the new MWRD EQ Compost, in which the MWRD co-composts three parts wood chips with one part biosolids, an organic material that is a product of the wastewater treatment process.
Biosolids are used as a soil amendment to improve the organic carbon content, structure and porosity of soils to allow plants to more effectively utilize nutrients. Another bonus is that it is available to the public for free. Gardeners can either pick up the compost—“bring your own bucket”—or receive free delivery on orders of 10 cubic yards or more.
The EQ Compost can be blended with topsoil or potting soil 20 to 50 percent by volume to establish grass, repair lawns, to make a soil blend for planter boxes or pots or for raised vegetable or flower garden beds. It can also be used as mulch.
Trees are another environmental management tool that contribute clean air, shade, carbon sequestration and protection from wind and noise. Trees also align with the MWRD mission of stormwater management by absorbing water and reducing flooding. In response to the decimation of the area’s tree population due to emerald ash borer infestations and extreme weather, the MWRD launched a Restore the Canopy initiative in 2016.
Each Wednesday morning at its water reclamation plants, the MWRD gives away free oak tree saplings alongside the compost—more than 64,000 in only three years. Like rain barrels, which the MWRD distributes at cost via its website, the tree saplings work to conserve water, mitigate flooding and improve regional water quality.
For more information, visit mwrd.org.
Patrick Thomas is the public affairs specialist for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. For more information, call 312-751-6633.