Foul, but no harm: EPA and MWRD officials say the runoff flowing over rocks into the Des Plaines from a quarry outfall pipe is not sanitary waste, despite a foul odor they say likely resulted from stagnation and high temperatures. (Courtesy Kelly Navarro)

Early last week, Riverside resident Kelly Navarro took to Facebook to get some feedback on an issue she and her family had noticed on a recent kayaking trip on the Des Plaines River.

Navarro said that she had noticed “a heavy stream of sewage running from a drain pipe directly into the river” on July 6, July 15 and July 16.

The pipe was roughly in line with former quarry property where Culver’s, an unfinished strip mall, ball fields and the Lyons municipal complex now stand. The effluent appeared to be brown and it emitted a very unpleasant odor, she said, adding “the stench prohibits getting too close.”

She also took a photo of the discharge flowing over the rocks that stabilize the riverbank in the area below the outfall. The liquid in the photo appears to have a brown tinge to it.

In addition to submitting a complaint with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Navarro also shared her concerns, the photo and links to documents about the outfall pipe with the Landmark, which made inquiries about the situation.

One fact we did confirm is that the pipe serves as a storm water outfall for the Reliable Materials Yard 18 quarry south of Ogden Avenue.  

The answer the paper got back, both from the MWRD and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, was that the outflow from the pipe did not contain any sewage or any other contaminants.

Kim Biggs, the public information officer from the IEPA, said in an email that representatives from both the village of Lyons and the MWRD had verified that the discharge from the quarry “appeared clear.”

“[The pipe] collects only area water runoff and is not connected to sanitary waste,” Biggs said. “There was also no evidence of raw sewage discharge observed in the Des Plaines River around that area.”

The brown color of the discharge was not from the water itself, according to Allison Fore, spokeswoman for the MWRD, which sent an inspector to the site following the Landmark’s inquiry about the runoff.

“Because the rocks are stained an orange/brown, it does make the discharge look brown against the rocks,” Fore wrote in an email.

As for the foul odor Navarro and her family encountered, it wasn’t due to the presence of sewage, according to the IEPA.

“Apparently there was one allegation that raw sewage was a related odor issue,” Biggs said. “This appears to be from stagnation and gasification in that part of the river due to the high temperature.”

Temperatures in the Chicago area have hovered near or above 90 degrees for the past couple of weeks.

5 replies on “Agencies say foul-smelling quarry runoff not sewage”