Chicago River Day 2019 Clean Up: Photos

Volunteers worked all along the Chicago River system Saturday removing tons of trash in Friends of the Chicago River's annual Chicago River Day effort.

Now in its 27th year, Chicago River Day cleanup and land restoration work is aimed at improving and protecting the Chicago River system for people, plants, and animals.

In a new effort this year to better understand where litter comes from and how it moves, trash from seven locations was collected and brought to a Waste Management location for analysis. This analysis is part of Friends of the Chicago River's expanded Litter Free Chicago River initiative, supported by a grant from the Mars Wrigley Foundation.

"Fortunately today, after years of effort, there is less litter in the Chicago River system but it still poses a problem," said Friends' Executive Director Margaret Frisbie. "Sometimes litter blows into the river from the shore or is illegally tossed into the waterway. Other times it can wash into the river through combined sewer overflows (CSOs). These CSOs are a mixture of sewage and rainwater released untreated into the waterway after it rains to relieve pressure on the sewer system and can carry sanitary waste and other trash."

Friends has called for zero tolerance for litter and sewage in the Chicago River system, calling on Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot to work with other agencies and public and private landowners develop a regional, nature-basedgreen infrastructure plan to reduce stormwater pollution and CSOs by capturing clean, fresh rainwater where it falls.

Assisting in the analysis is Loyola University biologist Timothy Hoellein Ph.D., an expert on litter and how it affects aquatic life. Examination of some 350 fish from the Chicago River and rivers of the region revealed bits of plastic in more than 90 percent of them, he said.

"How this might affect aquatic wildlife in the Chicago River is unclear, but there are several different possibilities. In some cases, plastics may pass through the digestive system without interaction. In other cases we've seen that plastics disrupt and injure the digestive systems of fish," he said. "There are also chemicals that stick to plastics or are part of the plastic itself that can leach out and be absorbed into tissues. Last, and especially for large organisms, we've seen plastics make aquatic wildlife feel 'full' so they are not consuming the calories and nutrients they need for a healthy life."

The litter analysis project is part of the Friends-initiated Litter Free Task Force that includes representatives from Waste Management, Mars Wrigley Foundation, Shedd Aquarium, and REI Co-Op as well as Dr. Hoellein.

This year's Chicago River Day was underwritten by a number of generous corporate partners, including presenting sponsor Exelon and lead sponsor PepsiCo, and stream sponsors Mars Wrigley Confectionary and Royal Bank of Canada's Blue Water Project, all longtime Chicago River Day supporters.

Thanks to ABC7, Fox32, WBBM Newsradio, WBEZ, Pioneer Press, and Patch for the coverage this year!

Ping Tom Park

Everybody helps!

Whatta skyline! Whatta river!

Nothing too small to pick up.

MWRD Commissioner Cam Davis' haul.

ABC7 gets the inside scoop from Friends' Executive Director Margaret Frisbie.

Kayak Chicago

The crew from Mars Wrigley standing strong.

Who's having fun?

The Waste Management team, valued partners in our effort to analyze river trash.

Clark Park

Everything out of the river...including the cart.

No telling what one can find in the Chicago River on Chicago River Day. Ugh.

Friends' Margaret Frisbie, MWRD commissioner Kimberly Du Buclet, and Professor Timothy Hoellein.

Thanks to all our partners, including Pernod Ricard, Waste Management and the Clark Park Advisory Council.

Bubbly Creek

Bubbly Creek is a lot better off without this.

Trinity United Christian Church

Trinity United Christian Church cleans up!

Big Marsh

Turning out big time at Big Marsh.

Canal Shores

Happiness is a clean waterway!

Eleanor Street Boathouse

The right job needs the right tools.

Eugene Field

What in the world....?

Highland Park Country Club

Flying the flag for a better Chicago River system.

Indian Road

A barrel of fun was had by these two (and everybody else who turned out for Chicago River Day 2019...)

Small hands but big hearts.

Little Cal Boat Launch

A good catch!

Metropolitan Brewing 

The queen of Chicago River Day, Friends' Volunteer and Events Associate Annette Anderson, center, is flanked by Friends Executive Director Margaret Frisbie, left, and Friends' Director of Strategic Initiatives Joanne So Young Dill, right.Thanks Metroplitan Brewing for hosting the North Side afterparty. 

Prairie Wolf Forest Preserve

Buckthorn goes up in smoke at Prairie Wolf Forest Preserve.

River Park

Less trash, more river at River Park thanks to these volunteers.

Call these two the Chicago River Day chairman and chairwoman.

Ronan Park

Thanks to Meeting Tomorrow for being a sponsor of this year's Chicago River addition to your volunteer work.


Reporting in from suburban Summit on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

West Fork

Removing some non-native plant species on the West Fork.

Ward Park 

Before...(ugh) and ....

...after! Much better.