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Letter: A New Infrastructure Plan for Elmhurst; What Do You Think?

Alderman Diane Gutenkauf explains the estimated $6.5 million in upgrades that will protect thousands of homes from flooding, and she wants your input.

Following the devastating floods of 2010, Elmhurst hired consulting engineers to help us address two distinct but related problems: sanitary sewer backups in private homes and overland flooding from excessive rainfall. We also established two task forces of local residents to analyze the engineers’ reports and provide advice to the City Council.

City Council has been presented with the engineers’ reports and the subsequent Task Force reports. The Public Works and Buildings Committee was charged with assessing their advice, drafting policies and taking action that will affect and assist you.

Engineers from the RJN Group examined Elmhurst’s sanitary sewer system to help us come up with a better plan to protect Elmhurst homes. On Monday, Jan. 28, they presented the Public Works and Buildings Committee with a proposal to protect 2,331 homes in southwest Elmhurst—site of many of the hardest hit homes. As a member of this committee, I would like to share their findings with you and would like your input at this stage.

Key to protecting homes in southwest Elmhurst is a new, wet-weather control facility. This project will significantly reduce the frequency of sewer backups in the Saylor and Jackson area by increasing the capacity of the pumping station, the surrounding upstream sewer and the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

This plan involves the city installing a new, larger sanitary sewer pipe—around 18 inches in diameter—that will run from the affected neighborhood to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. At the treatment plant, we’ll also build a huge storage tank to hold roughly 2 million gallons and contain the flow from the new pipe. This new tank will allow the city to treat more sewage before it goes into Salt Creek.

We also propose to increase the size of the Jackson Street sewer and upgrade the lift station at Saylor and Jackson with more capacity and a new standby generator.

Effectively, this will increase the capacity for the whole system. This new facility, in conjunction with an effort by residents to divert clean water from entering the sanitary sewer pipes, will provide protection up to the level of a 25-year storm event. In addition, reducing rain (clean) water from the sanitary system means we won’t have to pay to treat it. This saves all of us the tax dollars we otherwise use to treat the water.

What will this project cost and what is the timeline for implementation? We anticipate the entire project to cost roughly $6.5 million and be funded through general obligation bonds. We hope to submit plans to the Illinois EPA for permitting soon and to begin construction this summer. If that happens, we anticipate completing the project in the summer of 2014.

Details of this project still must be presented to the City Council, but I am very interested in your comments and thoughts. These long-awaited infrastructure upgrades can provide many Elmhurst residents great relief. Removing clear water from the system will save us all tax dollars in the long run. I fully endorse these projects but I want to hear what residents have to say as well. Please share your thoughts with me by submitting comments through my website: www.Diane2013.com

I want to applaud the council and the Public Works Committee for taking these initial steps to protect residents and keep Elmhurst a great place to live.

—Diane Gutenkauf, 1st Ward Alderman

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Joe O'Malley January 31, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Wow...increasing the size of the sewer lines in the affected areas and increasing retention capacity...who would of thought? ....and the city paid these consultant's how much to tell us what time it is with our gold Rolex?
5DecadesInElmhurs January 31, 2013 at 08:47 PM
It won't work. One again a problem is incorrectly defined. The southwest part of town is a historic floodplain. Elmhurst, like the upstream Salt Creek communities, has continued to allow dense development which exacerbates creek and transverse flooding. As long as homes are in the low areas, they will flood, despite the best efforts of over priced engineers. Elmhurst should be thinking in terms of a fifty year plan, to buy out homes, and to create park space which will double as water storage. The 18" pipe/million gallon tank plan is just a drop in the bucket which can only spawn more grandiose plans to move the water around.
R Johnson January 31, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Wow ! talk about playing politics w SW side residents; but you forgot one thing ms. g'kauf; what about us North siders ? Do you know that we could have paddled a canoe down East 1st street two summers ago. Yes, the water on 1st (west of poplar) was about 4 feet deep. Also, what you are not telling people is that this fix will still not protect many homes from the 2010 rain/flood. And what happened to all your permeable pavers will solve everything approach. Now, all of a sudden, you are a team player, you believe in engineering principles. The fact of the matter is that we would have to make the pipes THIRTY-SIX inches in diameter to guarantee that no homes will flood; and even then we are limited by gravity, and the capacity of the Salt Creek River.
Concerned resident January 31, 2013 at 09:26 PM
I'm sorry I probably missed the answer to this but, where is the rain water and clear water being diverted to? Are there storm sewers in every neighborhood in Elmhurst? I don't think so. Don't we already have a sump disconnect program initiated over 40 years ago........the program that caused flooding for residents that had never experienced flooding of basements and making yards unusable after a heavy rainfall because the ground water is just continually recycled eg. pvc pipe connected to sump and pvc pipe exits into back yard, ground water soaks into ground makes its way into sump pit, pump pumps it into back yard, same water draining into ground soaking into ground finds its way to sump pit in home, pumped from sump pit back into yard and so forth.Oh yes one more thing.... the power goes out. That just never happens. Oh wait it just happened night before last when I watched my son in law bailing water furiously from his sump pit as it rose to the lip of the pit because there was no power to run his sump pump! Why exactly did the power go out? No high wind. No lightning.....hmmmm.
Peggy Suratt February 01, 2013 at 03:56 AM
protecting homeowners from 25 year storms is a joke; we have had two 100 year storms in the last 5 years. this would be like the government giving you $ 10,000 worth of auto coverage for free; good luck when a real calamity hits. i'm disappointed that ms gutenkauf didn't propose something innovative, something sustainable like lowering the streets, or putting in bio-swales in the parkways. looks like her new campaign theme is now "DG - team player". i will miss the shut up woman; she had spunk.
Likes the Facts February 01, 2013 at 06:21 PM
Those of us that live over by East End get flooded all the time. Ms. Gutenkauf the plans you think are so great totally ignore us over here as you've done your entire years with the city. Tired of the "self interest" first approach. Think of the bigger picture once will you?
Voice of Reason February 01, 2013 at 08:42 PM
"i want to applaud the committee"; for what ? the council ? they haven't done anything. "i fully endorse these plans", what plan ? this is not a comprehensive plan. this is a two inch band-aid covering an eight inch scar. here's what we the people without carpeting on our basements want: we want a comprehensive plan. and for starters, that means the entire city; not just a plan that moderately helps those who bought/built on a flood plain. and for those on the southwest side, keep in mind that you will still need to leave the pallets in your basement because these 50 & 100 year rains have become pretty regular. and finally, until we start re-claiming some permeable space (by buying up lots, utilizing schools/parks for retention, and enacting reasonable floor area ratio requirements on new construction), we will always be at the mercy of mother nature.
RobertAWilson February 01, 2013 at 09:34 PM
This plan is for sewage back up. It sounds like plans for storm water problems are not ready yet.
Kathleen Sullivan February 03, 2013 at 06:17 PM
You are correct Mr. Wilson. PW committee has a number of projects yet to discuss, this is the first to make it through the gates. 25 year level of protection in an area that is currently 2-5 years is a huge improvement. I attended the PW committee meeting and this is a pretty good summary of an hour of presentation and discussions

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