The Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) is a man-made channel, which serves the Chicago area for the drainage of urban storm water and the conveyance of secondary treated effluent from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago's (District) North Side, Stickney and Calumet water reclamation plants (WRPs). A microbial characterization of the CAWS upstream and downstream of the WRPs and from the WRP outfall was initiated by collecting dry and wet weather samples and analyzing for indicators and pathogens. During dry weather, indicator bacteria (fecal coliform [FC], E. coli [EC], enterococci [EN]) were the most abundant microbial species detected in the CAWS compared to pathogens (Salmonella spp [SA], enteric viruses [EV], adenovirus [AV], norovirus [NV] and Giardia and Cryptosporidium). Pseudomonas aeruginosa [PA] levels in the outfall samples were either lower or equivalent to the CAWS. The wet weather samples had a higher frequency of detection of indicator bacteria and pathogens compared to dry weather samples. Overall, the concentrations of pathogens in the CAWS, representing the weather conditions experienced in a recreational year, were relatively low. The study concluded that the presence of pathogens in the CAWS downstream of the WRPs were due to secondary loading of the waterway under wet weather conditions from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and other discharges.

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