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The nose knows the Chicago River still stinks

The river still stinks and trash is a major problem
The river still stinks and trash is a major problem
Ted Nelson

There is no doubt that the effort to clean the Chicago River has made great strides over the last 20 years. There is also no doubt that the river still stinks. Several times a week I run over the bridge at Lawrence Avenue and the river does not smell like roses.

Related: Friends of Chicago River celebrate 20 years of Chicago clean up

News of the pollution in the Chicago River makes noise every year to six months. Perhaps the American Rivers will place the river on their list of most threatened rivers, maybe President Obama will say he would like to see people eventually swimming in the Chicago River, or a City of Chicago Reclamation official may say that cleaning the Chicago River is a waste of time.

Each time something like this happens, city officials and even the Governor will pledge to clean the river. Articles get written about it in the press and it is news for a couple of days. Meanwhile, my nose detects little change.

Fortunately, every summer, Leinenkugel’s Brewery runs a Chicago River Friendly Float. The trip is one-third party, one-third clean up, and one-third raising awareness to the plight of the Chicago River and to the smell.

Relate: Jacob Leinenkugel's Brewing Company Friendly Float

It is this kind of grass roots effort that will do more for cleaning up the Chicago River than any pledge by a Windy City politician. It is unfortunate that it has to be a Wisconsin Company that has to come down and teach us about clean water.

Not that there is anything wrong with it being a Wisconsin company. They routinely come down and teach us about football, why not clean water. The Chicago River can use all the friends it can get and it does not matter where they are from. I just would like to see more local businesses pick up the torch and put the care of the river’s future on their shoulders.

The Chicago River has great potential. I am constantly amazed at the wildlife I see along its shores when I run. I see three kinds of herons (black-crowned, green, and great blue), kingfishers, several kinds of ducks, terns, and gulls to name a few birds. I have also seen deer, coyote, and fox all this year in the park next to the river.

If more care was taken towards the river, who knows what other wildlife we might see and perhaps Obama’s dream of swimming in the river might occur. In the meantime we have a smell problem, which is a good barometer of the health of the river.

I am not sure where the millions of dollars of money has gone that was pledged to clean the river. Perhaps work is being done. I will know more when I join Leinekugel’s next week on the Friendly Float for the third year in a row.

I just am thankful for a beer company coming down from Chippewa Falls Wisconsin and brewing great beer and taking the time, effort, and money to run the Friendly Float. Perhaps someday the river will smell as sweet as a summer shandy.

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