by Oskar Bednarek for SUST 210
Residents in the Chicago suburbs of Niles and Park Ridge have to contend with super storms and flood waters on what seems like a yearly basis. The flood of 2013 was unprecedented in magnitude, closing down Golf Road, a main artery that is frequently traveled by thousands of drivers. Oakton Community College saw its parking lot well up with water, effectively closing down the school for a week. River Road, ironically, was dealt the same fate, as the Des Plaines River runs alongside it. This sight isn’t news for the residents in the surrounding area, but with the frequency and scope of the floods it’s a surprise that there isn’t a flood mitigation plan in order.
Floods like these delay traffic, force commuters off of familiar roads, and prevent services like ambulances from taking the easiest way to their location; and lets not forget the damage done to homeowners’ properties. It’s enough to make one ask, what exactly is being done to resolve this crisis?
As it turns out, Park Ridge is tackling this problem head-on according to Jon Davis’ article in the Chicago Tribune from 15 August 2014, with several stormwater projects in the pipeline that will hopefully put an end, or at least abate, future floods. While the efforts are promising, it’s taking longer than expected to execute the projects. With each passing year, another flood swamps the area. Among the projects listed are the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s Dempster Street Sewer Project, the Mayfield Estate storm sewers, and the Northwestern Park project.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s Dempster Street project aims to extend the street’s sewer pipe to take in extra stormwater deposits. The MWRD operates in 98 percent of Cook County and was established to deal with sewage and wastewater matters. The pumping stations the district utilizes provide ample power in getting stormwater out of troubled zones and to wastewater treatment facilities, which clean up all incoming wastewater before releasing it into area rivers and canals.
As Davis notes, the engineering firm of Christopher Burke was put on duty to develop a flood water mitigation plan back in 2009, and has drafted plans for the Mayfield Estate and Northwestern Park projects. The first could proceed a couple of different ways, from the least expensive detention basin, to the more expensive underground vault. The underground water storage chamber’s basic aim is to collect surface water, and it could also be fitted with a filtration system to separate the waste from the water. There are certain benefits to having underground storage. For one, it’s underground, and doesn’t leave its residents with an eyesore.
Another reason is the depth and soil temperature reduce bacterial growth in these tanks. A water detention surface basin is also on the table as an option. It comes at half the cost of the underground water storage system. While it may be cheaper, the detention basin comes with a different kind of cost related to sustainability. Detention basins, unlike retention basins, provide a limited amount of treatment for incoming stormwater. They’re effective in storing and slowing the flow of floodwater, but don’t provide the benefits that can come with the underground storage facilities.
The Northwestern Park Project is projected to have a surface detention pond installed, along with storm sewers, that lead into it. These are just two of the projects proposed that aim to alleviate floodwater from “10 to 100-year-storms.” The projects are still in the works and it will be a while before the financial, zoning, and district issues are resolved.
Each week during the Fall 2014 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future and SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.