Skip to contents
Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

‘Save The Trees’ Ordinance Pushed By 2 Aldermen To Get City To Try Less-Invasive Water Main Repair Method

If the ordinance passes, the city will launch a new pilot program for cured-in-place pipe technology and put a hold on removing more trees.

Trees once lined this Edgewater street. Now only stumps remain after they were removed to replace water mains.
Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

CITY HALL — Alds. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Andre Vasquez (40th) on Wednesday introduced an ordinance asking the city to take another look at a less-invasive method of repairing aging water mains in hopes of saving Chicago trees slated to be cut down to make way for underground work.

The city’s Water Department piloted a program to implement cured-in-place pipe, or CIPP, in 2017. But the department abandoned the technology after the pilot program. Contractors who worked on the pilot contend the test project was doomed to fail and was not a good example of how the cured-in-place pipe should be installed.

The news of the proposed ordinance comes just days after a Block Club Chicago report on the city’s failure to embrace cured-in-place pipe technology, despite cities such as Toronto, Rockford and Evanston using it.

RELATED: As Other Cities Replace Water Lines Without Tearing Up Streets And Trees, Chicago Refuses To Try It: ‘The Old Chicago Way’ At Work, Critics Say

With many of Chicago’s oldest trees in danger of being removed to repair century-old water lines, neighbors and local leaders have been looking for a better way.

Vasquez said when neighbors saw trees removed on their block without warning they were “heartbroken.” The proposal, which he has nicknamed the “Save The Trees” ordinance, is a response to his constituents’ concerns.

“I think it makes perfect sense, especially when we see other cities are using [CIPP],” Vasquez said. “It gives us more options so it’s worth checking the feasibility.”

Hopkins has been asking for cured-in-place pipe in his ward since August 2018, hoping to use the technology in his densely populated neighborhoods.

In order to meet Illinois EPA standards, City Water Department officials have said crews need to dig large trenches to replace aging lines, causing the loss of many trees whose root systems would be compromised.

Credit: Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Harry Osterman (left) and neighbors listen to a water management representative describe the excavation process for replacing water lines.

Cured-in-place pipe, used in Toronto since 2003, essentially installs a liner inside existing mains, meaning they don’t need to be removed.

The ordinance won’t be voted on before September when City Council is back in session.

The ordinance proposes a new cured-in-place pipe pilot program of at least 10,000 feet of testing. The original pilot program was only 300 feet, despite objections from the contractors who worked on the project.

“A larger pilot program would allow the City to fairly evaluate the merits of this technology in comparison to the current trenching and replacement techniques,” the ordinance reads.

If the ordinance passes, a report with the results of a new pilot program would be required to be delivered to City Council by July 1, 2020. Additionally, a hold would be placed on all current water main projects that would require for trees to be removed.

Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.