The “Stinking River:” Chicago’s Odor Management History and OMI Industries

By September 27, 2011January 24th, 2019News

Throughout American history, many cities have dealt with odor and sanitation issues that would confound the average person today. One prime example is the Chicago River. In the 1800s, the river was teeming with human waste, as well as animal products from the meat packing industry – causing foul odors to emanate throughout the city. To make things even more challenging, much of Chicago’s drinking water came from these infected waters. The citizens of Chicago referred to it simply and appropriately as “the stinking river.”

At the time, the Chicago River flowed from Lake Michigan into the city, which made it nearly impossible for the river to be clean and odor-free. In an epic feat of engineering, the Sanitary District of Chicago completely reversed the flow of the river using a series of canal locks, which ultimately allowed the water to flow into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. In 1999, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) named this system the “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium.”

The engineering marvel is a testament to our drive to improve our living conditions. And much like how the city of Chicago has a storied history when it comes to odor management, so too does OMI Industries, the developer of the Fresh Wave IAQ product line.

In 1991 a number of innovative engineers launched OMI Industries with the vision of providing the most effective odor abatement solutions that were natural, non-toxic and biodegradable. The OMI team went on to create Ecosorb®, which is the premier abatement solution for the toughest industrial environments including landfills, oil refineries and municipal waste water facilities – without the use of odor masking agents.

This critical step laid the foundation for both the Fresh Wave consumer brand and Fresh Wave IAQ. And, OMI Industries continues to find innovative uses for its natural odor abatement solutions that impact our businesses, schools, hospitals, municipal buildings and homes.

We often take for granted how modern life and new innovations have allowed us to live relatively odor-free lives. And thanks to the drive and tenacity of organizations like Sanitary District of Chicago and OMI Industries, we can live in a world with less foul odors for many generations to come.