Local News

Did Chicago’s Deep Tunnel help during Thursday’s flood?

Where was Chicago’s Deep Tunnel in all this during Thursday’s flooding?

It’s a question that arises whenever serious flooding happens in our area.

The giant sewer and reservoir system was created to take-in overflow storm water and sewage.

A Chicago Tribune report from two years ago was critical of it, revealing  billions of gallons of sewage  poured into waterways from storms far less severe than today’s.

But talk to David St Pierre and he’ll tell you the Deep Tunnel saved 2.3 billion gallons of water from entering your basements.

That’s the amount of water held by the Deep Tunnels.

St Pierre is executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which oversees the deep tunnel.  He said they began preparing for today’s torrent two days ago by lowering the amount of water already in the Deep Tunnel. But when the rainfall numbers like they were today, four inches and five inches, the Deep Tunnel simply can’t hold all that water.

“There’s no silver bullet. there’s nothing to  fire in the system today that would solve the magnitude of this type of issue,” said St Pierre.

The $4 billion dollar Deep Tunnel project began in 1975 to combat water pollution by collecting Cook County’s storm water and sewage overflow. Construction continues including building more reservoirs. When completed in 2015, the massive Thornton reservoir with will hold nearly 8 billion gallons of water. But along with that, St Pierre says, the long term solution is a cultural one,  a concerted effort by each homeowner to use, for example, rain barrels or simply unhooking your downspout.

Water management officials held a public meeting today on this very issue.   Another long term solution is creating rain parks, different from reservoirs in that the rain park will include plants with high water absorption rates.

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