One day in July 2007, Katie Coleman found herself upside down in the Chicago River. Her kayak had hit a submerged tree stump and flipped.
Coleman, 26, a grant writer for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, spent 15 minutes in the water pushing herself out of her craft, righting it and then reboarding. It was several hours before she showered.
She called in sick to work the next morning with gastrointestinal problems, she says.
Coleman and other environmental advocates say incidents like that illustrate problems with water quality caused by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. It's one of the country's few large sewage authorities that does not disinfect the effluent it pumps into waterways.