An official of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District says it would be a waste of money to make the Chicago River safe for swimming.

District board president Terrence O'Brien said Friday the waterway has been altered so dramatically that new efforts to improve water quality would not be a wise use of public funds, particularly during the nation's current economic state.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Illinois officials to adopt stricter water-quality standards for stretches of the Chicago River, saying it must be clean enough for recreational use, including swimming,

The water reclamation district is a public agency that operates sewage treatment plants for Chicago and its Cook County suburbs. The agency disposes partly treated sewage in area waterways.

AP-WF-05-14-11 0803GMT