ANDERSONVILLE — After outcry at the potential loss of mature trees in Andersonville, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) will host a series of “front porch” meetings with neighbors Monday night.
Lining the streets of Farragut, Berwyn, Summerdale and Balmoral are 10 mature trees that have lived there for more than half a century. But as century-old water and sewer lines beneath them are replaced, some of those trees may be in jeopardy.
The old water main dates to 1889 and needs to be replaced, according to Osterman. Under state law, the sewage and water lines must be located at least 10 feet horizontally from any existing or proposed drain, storm sewer, sanitary sewer or sewer service connection. The law aims to prevent drinking water from being contaminated by sewage.
Osterman will hold the meetings Monday night on the three blocks where trees are in danger of being torn down.
At 5:30 p.m., Osterman will be in the 1400 block of West Summerdale Avenue near the alley where the street intersects with Glenwood Avenue.
At 6:15 p.m., Osterman will be in the 1400 block of West Berwyn Avenue near the alley where the street intersects with Glenwood Avenue.
At 7:15 p.m., Osterman will be in the 1400 block of West Farragut Avenue near the alley where the street intersects with Glenwood Avenue.
Neighbors are encouraged to stop by, voice their thoughts or concerns and hear from the alderman about the plans moving forward.
Julie Wlach and other tree-loving neighbors have pushed for the city to request a variance from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). If granted, lines wouldn’t need to be replaced in the areas where some of the trees are located.
Although the city water department told Block Club that the IEPA will not waive the requirement, IEPA officials said that the city could petition for a variance with the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
Angel Hawthorne, a spokesperson from the city water department, declined to answer questions about whether or not the city planned on pursuing such a variance.
“The Department of Water Management is committed to working with the community to explore all options to preserve as many trees as possible as the planning and water main replacement process continues.” Hawthorne said Monday. “To ensure all residents of Chicago have modern and reliable water service, DWM plans to replace pre-1900’s six-inch water mains throughout the Andersonville neighborhood without delay.”
A petition for a variance has not been filed to date, IEPA spokeswoman Kim Biggs said.
Even if the city does not get any type of waiver or variance from the IEPA, Wlach is hoping city officials will adopt a “wait-and-see approach.”
Instead of proactively cutting down trees, city workers could complete the work without removing the trees. Then, the city could monitor the health of the trees that could be in jeopardy after suffering damage to their root systems during construction, she said.
“We are going to keep pushing for the city to slow down,” Wlach said.
Wlach said she and other neighbors are searching for instances where the IEPA has granted similar variances in order to save trees from being cut down.
Osterman has a love for trees, but safety — which means clean drinking water and stable trees that won’t fall down due to the water main work — is paramount, he said.
“My first and foremost issue is safety and I don’t want to see a tree fall on someone or a kid walking down the street,” he said.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.