Bridges raised along the Chicago River to let sailboats through to Lake Michigan.
Bridges raised along the Chicago River to let sailboats through to Lake Michigan. - 
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Bill Radke: You may know the Chicago River for its old nickname, the Stinking River. Chicago still doesn't disinfect the wastewater it dumps in there. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Jennifer Collins reports the city's latest excuse is: cleaning up the river may be bad for the environment.

Jennifer Collins: Officials say it would cost half a billion dollars and take boatloads of electricity to disinfect the sewage. And that would create more carbon emissions. So is this a battle of clean air versus clean water?

Jill Horist: Well, interestingly enough, it is.

Jill Horist represents the district that oversees the city's wastewater. She says the water's already 98 percent clean. Making it cleaner would put out tons of greenhouse gases.

Horist: People who are living near the wastewater treatment plants where there is going to be a larger carbon footprint and perhaps additional air pollution. Those people live there.

But the executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, Margaret Frisbie, says this isn't an either-or situation -- and kids boat on the river.

Margaret Frisbie: Cause it's basically my toilet to our river on a bacterial level.

And she says the cost of cleaning the river is nothing compared to what could happen if someone falls in and gets sick.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.