Debra Shore
November 18, 2016

My Toast to the Toilet

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? World Toilet Day on Saturday, November 19? Designated by the United Nations to draw attention to the fact that 2.5 billion people lack access to the most basic sanitation. Every year 315,000 children die of diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water and millions of people suffer illnesses, some of them fatal, which could have been prevented entirely with proper access to a toilet.

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September 5, 2016

Investing in Water Powers the Economy

Chicago is the birthplace of America’s labor movement. Yet, across the nation — and more recently at home in Illinois — we’ve seen policies seep into the mainstream that undercut unions and redirect the flow of wealth from hard-working middle class families to those at the very top.

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June 6, 2016

The New Alchemy

On May 25 the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) officially opened the world’s largest nutrient recovery facility at the world's largest sewage plant  the Stickney plant  in Cicero, IL. In partnership with Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, MWRD built and will operate the facility to remove phosphorus from the wastewater stream and convert it to a slow-release fertilizer that can be sold.

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April 8, 2016

Illinois Water Day

Today is the third annual Illinois Water Day launched by students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to raise awareness about water resource issues.

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March 24, 2016

Now I Am Asking

The Cook County Board will soon consider a proposed ordinance (Item 16-1983) governing the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals in Cook County.

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March 15, 2016

Elections Matter 2.0

Because a number of people have asked, I am sharing the list of candidates I am supporting in the Democratic primary.

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February 29, 2016

Elections Matter

I am supporting the following candidates for public office in the Democratic primary on March 15.

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January 29, 2016

Could Flint's Water Crisis Happen Here?

Yes, because older homes in Chicago and Cook County may have lead pipes between the water main in the street and the faucet in the home. Even though water filtered from Lake Michigan is treated with chemicals to prevent leaching of lead from old pipes, if water is left standing for some time then some lead may leach from these pipes and show up in the water flowing from the faucet.

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November 19, 2015

World Toilet Day: We Can't Wait

The global non–profit World Toilet Organization launched World Toilet Day in 2001, and by 2013 even the United Nations General Assembly officially designated November 19th as such. Why? To draw attention to the fact that more than 2.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to a safe, clean, private toilet.

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July 24, 2015

Good for the Region, Good for the River

On Friday, July 17, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) launched the new disinfection facility at the Calumet Wastewater Treatment Plant on Chicago’s far south side, adding a final step to the sewage treatment process that will kill more of the bacteria and other pathogens still present in the wastewater before it is discharged into the Little Calumet River.

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June 30, 2015

Want to Get to the Bottom?

Since 1998, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has been working to convert a limestone quarry visible from Interstate 80 into a reservoir to capture stormwater overflows and provide flood water storage from Thorn Creek. After years of mining, tunnel construction, and $400 million expended, the Thornton Reservoir will be dedicated sometime in August.

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May 21, 2015

Skim Pickens on the Chicago River?

When big rainstorms fill sewers past their capacity to hold all the water, excess stormwater carrying dirt, debris, pet poop and worse from the streets overflows directly into Chicago waterways. Now boats Skimmy Dipper and Skim Pickens will skim trash from the river’s surface and will be on call to gather debris from specific overflow sites during storms.

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March 22, 2015

World Water Day 2015 — A World Drowning and Parched

In the last century, we moved water to people; in this century, people will move to water. At least that's the assertion Charles Fishman makes in his captivating and provocative book, The Big Thirst, The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water. And why not?

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February 5, 2015

More Rain (in Solid Form)

Yes, I'm sore from shoveling, marveling in the beauty of snow, and pondering (still) the matter of storm intensity. How much rain would this latest snowstorm have equaled? The rule of thumb when determining the liquid equivalent of snowfall is that 10 inches of snow equals one inch of rain, although ambient temperature during a snowfall can shift this ratio one way or the other.

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September 16, 2014

After You Flush

“We take it after you flush.” That’s how a former candidate for the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District described the organization’s mission. While that statement is true, I chose not to use it as my campaign slogan!

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August 26, 2014

The Next Storm, The Next Flood?

Is it better to put food waste down the garbage disposal or throw it out in the trash? I'll be a guest on Jerome McDonnell’s Worldview program on WBEZ 91.5 FM Tuesday, August 26 at approximately 12:40p.m. discussing this very question.

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July 5, 2014

Storm Story 2.0

The newsletter I sent on Tuesday explaining what happened during the major storm of June 30–July 1 didn’t tell the whole story. It was worse than I thought. Thanks to some of the responses I received, I realized that I had failed to account for the intensity of the storm.

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July 1, 2014

Everything is to Blame

Consider this: More than three inches of rain — 3.09 inches, to be exact — fell in Wilmette in the space of six hours on Monday night. That’s more than nine percent — 9.26 percent — of the total average annual rainfall in Wilmette in the space of just six hours.

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June 4, 2014

Name That Boat, The Start of Something Big, and Summer Solstice

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is adding two new trash collection boats to its fleet in honor of its 125th Anniversary, and you can name them!

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April 16, 2014

Summer Solstice Celebration & Drug Take-Back Day

As I write this, I am returning from Washington, DC where I attended a policy summit on the Water and Wastewater Utility of the Future. Fascinating movement afoot, and huge infrastructure challenges.

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March 16, 2014

Why Vote? Because Water Matters

Why did I first run for a seat on the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in 2006? Because water matters. It's that simple — and that vital.

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March 3, 2014

People Are Asking (Election Edition)

Most of the time this newsletter contains information on environmental issues — such as the last one addressing the question of best disposal of food waste — or new initiatives at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. But now and then I delve into the political realm because, in so many aspects of our environmental, social, and economic lives, that's where the action is.

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February 12, 2014

People Are Asking…

In the U.S., we waste an average of 213 pounds of food per household per year.

So I am often asked, "Is it better to throw food waste out in the garbage or to dispose of it in the sink using a garbage disposal?" Perhaps you've wondered this too?

Your friendly wastewater Heloise stands ready to help.

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December 26, 2013

Chicago’s Water is Key to Chicago’s Future

Metropolitan Chicago can have a robust economy long into the 21st century because of its freshwater assets and its transit infrastructure, should we invest in them. As urban sprawl imperils freshwater supplies elsewhere and climate change threatens coastal inundations that would push more Americans to the continent’s interior, we can position this region for water-intensive industries and sustainable growth.

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October 4, 2013

In Chicagoland There is No Downhill

Here’s a fascinating fact for you: Over the 26-mile length of the Sanitary & Ship Canal, extending from the South Branch of the Chicago River to the Des Plaines River near Lockport, the change in elevation is only 5.7 feet.

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August 9, 2013

A Big Win for the Chicago Waterway

Great news. Yesterday, the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District voted unanimously to award two contracts to construct disinfection facilities at the O'Brien (formerly North Side) Wastewater Treatment Plant and at the Calumet Plant.

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July 16, 2013

100 Year Floods and Other Misconceptions

We've had a lot of rain this year and two major storms that have caused significant flooding, damage and heartbreak to thousands of Cook County residents. We've heard the term “100-year storm” bandied about and it feels like these major deluges are happening much more frequently.

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June 19, 2013

Say It Loudly: Bastard Toadflax

The trailhead for my path to public service lies in the Cook County forest preserves, probably at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, IL, but it could just as easily be in Harms Woods in Glenview or at Bunker Hill Savanna in Chicago.

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May 15, 2013

What's in an Acronym

Say “CSO” in Chicago and most people will immediately think of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the truly world-class institution known by that acronym. Yet, in another realm — the one in which I now dwell and row — CSO stands for “combined sewer overflow,”…

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April 22, 2013

Big Water, Mother Earth

Let's look at what happened during last week's storm. The Chicago region is a soggy place. Low-lying, marshy, wet and mucky. When early explorers found the portage between the Chicago River and the Des Plaines River, it was a wide low expanse called Mud Lake.

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June 8, 2011

A Momentous Decision

It's hard to know how history will record our actions. Will Tuesday's vote by eight members of the board of commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District — I was among them — to support disinfection of the effluent discharged from two of the largest treatment plants be viewed as a turning point in the long life of the Chicago River?

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May 18, 2011

Where I Stand on Cleaning the Chicago River

On May 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a forceful letter to the State of Illinois stressing that the state should adopt new water quality standards for major stretches of the Chicago Area Waterway System, including the Chicago River.

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March 22, 2011

World Water Day 2011 — Props Required

For today's essay on the occasion of World Water Day, you will need some props. A bucket. A coffee cup filled with water, and a teaspoon. We'll give you a few minutes to gather these in front of you.

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January 2, 2011

Taxes, Trees and a World Still Singing

Now is the time when people of the Jewish faith celebrate a holiday called Tu B'shevat, the New Year for Trees. Historically, this was the time — the 15th of the month of Shevat — when people would calculate the age of trees for tithing.

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November 18, 2010

Wind Cave, Typhoid, and World Toilet Day -or- How Sanitation Changed the World

Wind Cave in South Dakota is known for its unusual cave formation called boxwork, thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs. (Since 1903 the cave has been protected as a national park.) Native Americans knew of the cave…

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November 12, 2010

Let Us Now Praise Rake and Broom

I have just come inside after two hours of raking leaves on a beautiful fall day (and I'm not done). Still, I am prompted once again to reflect on the transfer of worthy work from the historic use of our bodies…

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October 20, 2010

Why I Vote

I vote because it's my ticket to complain about my government. That's right, I think you don't get to complain about government or a single lousy politician unless you vote. No whining, not one snide remark for the next four years.

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July 9, 2010

Off the Shelf

I checked and — sure enough — they were gone. No more Cascade boxes containing phosphorus. The end of an era. On July 1, Illinois and 15 other states banned automatic dishwashing detergents containing phosphates…

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June 6, 2010

In the News, By the River, On the Streets

Last Sunday, the Chicago Sun-Times published an op-ed piece by me with my views on the issue of whether the Chicago River could be made suitable for swimming. My point is that improving water quality…

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April 22, 2010

My Inconvenient Truths

Let's start with the smaller ones, my inconvenient truths: Electric toothbrush. Electric can opener. Electric pencil sharpener. Electric leaf blower and hedge trimmer. Electric lawn mower and garage opener. All those tools that once were human-powered now rely on…

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November 25, 2009

World Toilet Day, A Load of Mail

Some of my newsletters generate more responses than others. My recent one in recognition of World Toilet Day — November 19 — produced a number of interesting notes in return, which I thought I would share with you.

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November 19, 2009

World Toilet Day 2009

No, I am not suggesting that the world is in the toilet, nor that it belongs there. I have been reading a fascinating and informative book by Rose George called The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.

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November 3, 2009

Managing Stormwater in Cook County, Your Turn to Shape the Future

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) has recently issued a draft Watershed Management Ordinance (WMO) for Cook County. This draft ordinance is a set of rules that will apply to certain new development…

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July 27, 2009

Missing 9-11, Reflections on Being Out of It

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that I “miss” 9/11 in the sense that I long for that moment when the nation was joined convulsively in terror and grief. Nor am I suggesting that I yearn nostalgically for a simpler time…

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June 18, 2009

The Audacity of Slope

On May 29, 1889, the Chicago Sanitary District was established by the Illinois General Assembly in order to protect the drinking water supply for people in Chicago. This recent anniversary prompted me to wonder. What would have happened if Chicago had not reversed the river?

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April 21, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Let's start with the easy ones: electric pencil sharpener, electric can opener, leaf blower and weed wacker, hedge trimmer and hair dryer. Instead of using our own calories to do useful work, we now dip into the…

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December 28, 2008

Debra Shore New Year Wish

My wish for 2009 is that we rediscover — and rededicate ourselves to — the common good. In times of great stress and upheaval, such as we are experiencing now, we are tempted to focus solely on what we don't have, what we missed out on or have lost.

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November 17, 2008

All Hail the Stick!

Perhaps you missed this — I know I did — but last week the stick was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. About time, don't you think?! The cardboard box made it into the elite group in 1995, for goodness sakes.

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September 15, 2008

Storm of the Century

Residents of the Chicago region have begun mopping up from the largest one-day rainfall recorded since records have been kept and you probably have lots of questions about it. I'm a member of the nine-member elected board of commissioners…

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August 25, 2008

Sensible Shoes

Greetings from Denver where the air is thin, spirits are high, security is pervasive, and Democrats are gathering for the national convention that opens today. As a first-time delegate to the convention, I attended…

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July 30, 2008

And We Are All Mortal

Next to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard is a small sunken fountain with benches and foliage on three sides. It is a memorial to John F. Kennedy, Jr. Water flows constantly from the top into a pool and then…

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June 5, 2008

In Defense of Words

Today, the morning after Senator Barack Obama closed a remarkable primary season with enough delegates to earn the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, I was prompted to think about words.

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April 24, 2008

Paddlebikes Redux

Many years ago I read a book by Victor Papanek called Design for the Real World, Human Ecology and Social Change, published in 1971 with an introduction by Buckminster Fuller. I have no idea how I came to read it,…

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April 1, 2008

Braking News

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) today announced a dramatic new initiative to improve conditions in the Chicago waterways, provide a safe, secure source of renewable energy, and address the ballooning problem of obesity in Cook County.

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March 21, 2008

World Water Day 2008

March 22 is World Water Day, an initiative begun 15 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro. Water is an essential ingredient of life on Earth, yet it is a finite resource.

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January 28, 2008

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Let it be said: Barack Obama will not solve all our problems — not yours, not mine, not America's. One of the worst things we do to candidates for public office is to make them the repository for our hopes and dreams, to relinquish our own power to them.

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October 4, 2007

Rain Barrels For Sale

I am happy to report that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has a new program to sell rain barrels to Cook County residents for the bargain price of $40. (Limit is 2). These 50-gallon barrels in fetching shades of sky blue…

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September 21, 2007

Autumnal Equinox, Summer Ends

On September 19, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District held a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Lockport Powerhouse. Located where the Des Plaines River joins the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and taking advantage of…

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August 07, 2007

Too Bad Nobody Told the Lake

Too bad nobody told the lake about jurisdictional boundaries and statutory limitations, right? Too bad nobody told the lake about county lines and state lines. Too bad nobody told the lake that even now, 35 years after the passage of the Clean Water Act…

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June 14, 2007

Starting at the Tap

Yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Carol Marin wrote about water. “I think about Mayor Daley early in the morning and late at night,” her column began. “I think about him when I'm brushing my teeth. It may sound weird but it's true…

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April 18, 2007

Restoring Nature, Restoring Ourselves

With Earth Day and Mother's Day approaching, I've been asking myself, Just what do we get from Mother Nature? Let's see...Air, water, fruits of the vine — merely all things essential for our survival.

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