by Alan Swartz, Ben Schulman, and Allison Mayes
(December 2011)

Current wastewater management practices put the emphasis on “waste” and very little on “water.” By treating water as a commodity that is treated in off-site, large-scale treatment plants such as the John Egan wastewater facility in Schaumburg, an inefficient system is maintained. The conventional infrastructure in place separates the natural flow of water,  raises the costs on both water bills and property taxes, and discourages community engagement from the surrounding landscape.

Despite these challenges, our research indicates that if sustainable practices are implemented to recharge groundwater supply (and therefore diminish the need to tap Lake Michigan for drinking water), implement cost controls, and adopt incremental, neighborhood-level infrastructure that treats water at the site, a sustainable system can be put into place that safely treats Schaumburg’s wastewater.

Next page: Current Treatment Methods

Banner photo: Settling pools at the Stickney Wastewater Treatment plant on Chicago’s Southwest Side — the largest WTP in the world (source: Emerson Process Management). Like the John Egan and Hanover Park WTPs utilized by Schaumburg, the Stickney WTP is managed by the Water Metropolitan Reclamation District of Greater Chicagoland.