Protecting Aurora’s Waterways

The Fox River has always been a valuable resource for Aurora. In the City's early years the river was an essential part of industry and commerce. Today, Aurora relies on the river for drinking water and recreation, and after decades of cleanup and restoration, the river is home to a growing variety of wildlife. Because of its value, Aurora is actively working to protect the Fox River and its waterways from pollution. Find out what the City is doing and how you can help.

The Sewer System and the Potential for Pollution

Two types of pollution affect the Fox River: sewage from homes and businesses, and stormwater runoff from yards, agriculture and streets.

Both kinds of pollution are carried through an extensive network of sewers throughout the city. Some carry sewage, others carry just stormwater, and combined sewers carry both sewage and stormwater.

More than a century ago, cities across the United States, including Aurora and other communities up and down the Fox River, built combined sewers that took both sewage and stormwater away from homes and streets and dumped it directly into the river.

In 1927, decades before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began requiring sewage treatment, forward-thinking Aurora residents supported the construction of a sewage treatment plant and new sewers. Those combined sewers are still in operation today and carry sewage and waste to the Fox Metro Water Reclamation treatment facility in Oswego, which cleans the water before returning it to the Fox River.

The combined sewer system can handle Aurora's typical volume of both sewage and runoff, but during heavy rainstorms and snow melt too much water floods the sewers. When that happens, untreated sewage overflows into the Fox River or backs up into basements. This is called a combined sewer overflow, or CSO.

To solve this problem, Aurora and other cities across the country began installing more modern storm sewer systems separate from the sewers that carry sewage from homes and businesses. Today, when new sewers are installed, one set of sanitary sewers moves the sewage from homes and businesses to the Fox Metro Treatment Facility, and another set of sewers takes rain and snow melt runoff from roads directly to the Fox River, Indian Creek, Waubonsie Creek, Blackberry Creek, and the West Branch of the DuPage River.

These separate storm sewers have the benefit of preventing combined sewer overflows and keeping human waste out of our river, but the rain and snow melt from urban areas like Aurora can carry pollutants like lawn fertilizer and weed killer, vehicle fluids, winter road salt, pet waste and chemicals that are illegally dumped into drains out to the Fox River.