Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, Lecturer Joan Neal Work with Rowing Team to Advocate for Better Water Quality

Recovery on Water

ROW started on the North Branch of the river near North Avenue, but soon outgrew that location and moved its base to the launch in Bridgeport on Eleanor Street. They row on the South Branch of the river and also Bubbly Creek, the offshoot infamous for the bubbles caused by decaying carcasses dumped by the stockyards in decades past.

Untreated sewage is frequently released in this stretch of the river, as the system’s combined storm and wastewater sewers are overwhelmed during heavy rains. Though the women haven’t let water quality stop them, it is a serious concern. Behner was hospitalized for several days this summer because of an infected blister. Coach Devlin Murdock notes that “blisters are as much a part of rowing as oars and boats,” and team members strongly suspect the infection came from the river water too. 

Neal helped connect ROW with the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago, and they’ve been working together for more than a year to participate in the policy debate regarding water quality and sewage releases. Team members have testified at Illinois Pollution Control Board hearings and otherwise offered their input, including demands that the water quality in the South Branch be brought up to standards officially safe for recreation.

Read more at Healthy Water Solutions