If not for its unbearable stench, Collateral Channel would go unnoticed in Little Village.
Covered by trees and brush, the slip of water on the north side of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is barely visible to traffic along 31st Street near Cook County Jail.
But residents who live nearby cannot escape the smell produced by sewer overflows and a century of pollution.
Hot, muggy days are the worst; windy days bring a respite.
“If it’s not windy, you can smell everything,” said Ruben Quintero, 70, who lives on Albany Avenue near 31st. “If there are dead animals in there, it’s worse.”
About six years ago, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago gave serious consideration to a solution: capping the area and installing a wetlands project.
According to a 2008 public notice about the project posted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the MWRD and researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that sediment in the channel was highly contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons “at a level that is of significant concern for ecological health and human health.”
Alarming words, yet no action was taken.