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Century-old Water Main Floods South Side: Could Soak All of Chicagoland

By JoshMogerman in News on Oct 15, 2011 8:30PM

water main break [reallyboring]

Rahm Emanuel is famously quoted about not wasting a crisis, so we can safely predict that he will use today’s South Side flooding to highlight the need for a water infrastructure revamp…and the controversial water bill increases that will pay for it.

A nearly century-old water main failure in the Back of the Yards neighborhood inundated alleys and closed 47th Street from Racine to Ashland this morning. Buses have been re-routed and city crews are trying to figure out how to clean up the mess over the weekend, but we assume you will be hearing a lot more about the incident long after the flood is cleaned.

As criticism of doubling water fees in the proposed City budget grows, the mess comes with perfect timing for the Mayor; just a day after he hit the streets to show off examples of the crumbling water infrastructure - including century-old hollowed out logs - moving the city’s water and sewage. Back in August he took advantage of a similar street failure when Emanuel practically clubbed Governor Quinn with blame for a Northwest Side sinkhole in their ongoing spat over a Chicago casino.

While we don’t relish the idea of ponying up a ton more cash on next year’s water and sewer bills, it is pretty hard not to notice a seeming uptick in high profile failures on our City streets. And as Chicago Magazine’s Whet Moser notes, Chicago’s water fees are pretty low compared to other American cities. We just hope that some of the cash raised might start mainstreaming a green streets program: expanding permeable pavers out of alleys and onto some streetscapes to begin helping with floods (from rain or inevitable main mishaps). They are both green, but we'd guess the pavers work a ton better than the tree stumps still under a few streets...