Overflow Activists Do Not Hibernate

Winter flooding at Linne Woods in Morton Grove.

We don’t usually associate the winter months with the potential for flooding and basement backups, but combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and flooding can occur on cold winter days too; rain or melting snow can’t infiltrate frozen ground, so every drop becomes runoff. 

In the past four years there have been a total of 22 CSOs from December to February, according to historical data found on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s hub. The importance of Overflow Actions Days was underscored this week by Friends’ Policy Specialist Chelsey Grassfield who hosted two informational webinars inviting members and friends to join us as Overflow Activists, and to learn what steps we can take all year round to keep sewage and polluted stormwater out of the Chicago River system.

“At Friends, we expound the benefits of green nature-based infrastructure, such as rain barrels and native plant gardens, but in winter those practices have less of an impact,” said Grassfield. “In addition many people live in buildings where they cannot install these rain-catching tools. However, we all have the ability to take quicker showers, flush one less time, or hold off on doing the laundry until the wet weather subsides.”

When there is a lot of snow on the ground and we get a warm day, there can be a lot of water melting and running off into the sewer system, almost as much from a heavy rainstorm. On days like that, it is important to lessen the amount of water that goes down the drain to make room for the snowmelt to be processed at treatment facilities. Also, your outdoor rain absorbing and storing methods such as rain barrels are not in use during the winter months, so it’s a good time to concentrate your water-saving tactics to the indoors.

Overflow Action Day Alerts continue throughout the winter. Sign up today.