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Chicago Receives Two U.S. EPA Grants to Improve Lake Michigan Water Quality

Release Date: 04/26/2014
Contact Information: Peter Cassell, 312-886-6234, 312-859-9614 (cell),

CHICAGO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the award of two Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling $1 million to fund green infrastructure projects in Chicago. The projects will improve water quality in Lake Michigan. EPA Region 5 Administrator / Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman was joined today by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky to announce the grants.

“The city of Chicago will use these EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities grants for green infrastructure projects to prevent stormwater from carrying contamination into Lake Michigan,” Hedman said. “Green infrastructure also helps to prevent flooding, which is occurring more often as a result of the increasingly frequent extreme precipitation events that have hit the Midwest in recent years – a pattern that may intensify as the result of climate change.”

“We are pleased to receive funding from the EPA under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for green infrastructure improvements that directly benefit residents, businesses and the environment,” Emanuel said. “These two grants will help us to enhance Chicago’s overall Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy, which we launched last year to improve our water and sewer infrastructure, reduce flooding and enhance our city’s overall sustainability.”

“Lake Michigan is one of Chicago’s greatest assets, but it faces many challenges – from contaminated sediment to industrial pollutants to invasive species,” Durbin said. “The Environmental Protection Agency has invested more than $70 million to ensure the lake stays beautiful and clean for years to come, and today’s announcement is the latest example of the federal government’s commitment to the lake. These grants will help stop almost 5 million gallons of untreated stormwater from running into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, great news for the millions of Chicagoans who rely on the lake for drinking water or fishing. I’m proud to be a part of the efforts to preserve and restore Chicago’s shoreline.”

The city will use one Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant ($812,000) to install bioswales and permeable pavement in a parking area at Montrose Beach. This project will filter over 4 million gallons of stormwater each year, greatly reducing the amount of contamination that would otherwise end up in Lake Michigan. The city will use the other Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant ($188,000) to install green infrastructure along Leland Avenue, a street that runs through Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood toward the lakefront. This project will prevent almost 900,000 gallons of untreated stormwater from entering the City’s combined sewer system each year and will help prevent basement flooding in nearby homes.

“These innovative green infrastructure projects at Montrose Beach and along Leland Avenue will greatly reduce the amount of contamination that would otherwise end up in Lake Michigan,” Schakowsky said.

"Sustainable infrastructure solutions are key to our long-term environmental health,” Quigley said. “The projects supported by the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities grants will help reduce the risk of flooding and improve the ability to treat stormwater and urban runoff at its source, ensuring millions of Chicagoans and the broader Great Lakes community can continue to rely on the Great Lakes as a vital source of fresh water."

Chicago is among 16 cities to receive funding in the initial round of EPA’s new GLRI Shoreline Cities grant program. These grants can be used to fund up to 50 percent of the cost of green infrastructure projects on public property. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soil and natural processes to hold and filter stormwater and melting snow. This prevents flooding and keeps contamination from reaching surface water and groundwater resources. The first round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Shoreline Cities projects includes rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, porous pavement, greenways, constructed wetlands, stormwater tree trenches and other measures to improve water quality in the Great Lakes basin.

For more information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative or Shoreline Cities Green Infrastructure grants, visit