Photographer Lloyd DeGrane’s photos captured a dramatic scene at the lock of the Chicago River this spring. As the lock was opened to relieve pressure stormwaters sent a surge of murky brown water into Lake Michigan. Although the river is typically much darker than the lake it is uncommon to see it darkening the lake in the manner it is here. This influx in pollution is the result of climate change. Excessive rains this spring have increased the amount of pollutants that are being forced through the river and as a result into the Great Lakes.
According to Tom LaPorte, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Water Management, these images should be viewed as a indication of things to come. LaPorte said “This is a new kind of storm associated with climate change. It’s been around for five or six years. Other storms are rather local, but in this case the entire region got really walled.” This is a pragmatic situation considering the immense amount of pollution we see seeping into the lake in DeGrane’s photos.
As these storms become more prevalent this type of scene may become a common occurrence unless measures are taken to correct the problem. Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel points out that “The big challenge for any big city is that we have large areas of concrete, rooftops. It’s really hard for water to soak in.” There is hope that through the implementation of green roofs and rain gardens in the city the levels of pollution could be reduced diminishing the detrimental effects of stormwater runoff.