The Stream, May 20, 2020: Chicago Sewage Washes Into Lake Michigan as Heavy Rain Overwhelms Infrastructure

The Global Rundown

Sewage sweeps into Lake Michigan as heavy rain overwhelms Chicago’s $3 billion Deep Tunnel sewer system. Health experts in England warn that businesses closed due to Covid-19 should flush out their water supply before reopening due to concerns about Legionnaires’ disease. Drought in Colorado continues to expand, boosting the likelihood of forest fires. Covid-19 continues to devastate the Navajo Nation, where functioning water and sanitation systems are scarce. Nearly half a million people evacuate their homes in India and Bangladesh as a super cyclone approaches.

“We have just about six hours left to evacuate people from their homes and we also have to maintain social distancing norms. The cyclone could wash away thousands of huts and standing crops.” –S.G. Rai, a disaster management official in India, in reference to an impending super cyclone en route to India and Bangladesh. Nearly half a million people have been evacuated from the two nations as super cyclone Amphan approaches the Bay of Bengal. Reuters

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By The Numbers

63 percent Proportion of Colorado that is experiencing some level of drought, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. About 15 percent of the state has now reached the level of “extreme” drought, raising concern about the likelihood of wildfires in the late spring and summer. The Denver Post

$3 billion Cost of the Deep Tunnel sewer system meant to collect sewage and runoff from Chicago and its suburbs. The system is supposed to withstand massive rainstorms, but is incomplete and billions of gallons of sewage and runoff regularly spill into local waterways during and after storms. On Thursday and Friday of last week, parts of the city received up to 4.5 inches of rainfall, forcing the city to open sluice gates allowing storm runoff and sewage to pour into Lake Michigan. Chicago Tribune 

Science, Studies, and Reports

Public Health England (PHE) is urging businesses closed due to Covid-19 lockdowns to flush their pipes before reopening, citing concerns about a buildup of Legionella bacteria. The bacteria, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, is naturally present in water systems and is more likely to grow in stagnant water. The Independent 

In context: CDC, EPA Change Building Reopening Guidance After Acknowledging Error

On the Radar

An array of issues, including inadequate water infrastructure, a small public healthcare system, and government negligence have left members of the Navajo Nation particularly prone to Covid-19. The infection rate in the territory, which is situated in the southwestern United States, has reportedly bypassed that of New York and New Jersey, and aid workers warn that the virus will likely continue to spread amid chronic shortages of water and other essentials. High Country News

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