Crumbling Sewers


This week the Herald-Advocate reports that the City of Park Ridge is experiencing an increase in sewer collapses. (“Sewers collapsing more frequently,” Sept. 1)  

Some of the descriptions of this problem are disturbing, like the 21-inch clay-tile sewer in front of 496 N. Northwest Hwy. that “basically disintegrated on one side,” according to Water & Sewer Dept. foreman Ron Brubaker.  He also warned that these older sewers would continue to crumble, and pointed to “the lack of funding in the past several years” as the culprit in the reduction in the number of sewers being replaced or reinforced.

Public Works Director Wayne Zingsheim echoed Brubaker’s concern, noting that a half-million dollars for sewer reinforcement – lining the old clay tile sewers with a stronger material – was cut from this year’s budget by the City Council.  He also advocated for funding to put television cameras throughout the sewer system so that conditions could be regularly monitored.

What these comments suggest is that our elected officials, and City Staff, have neglected these infrastructure problems not just for the past several years but for most of the past decade, if not longer.  Of course, sewer maintenance, repair and replacement isn’t very glamorous, and it certainly isn’t as much “fun” as throwing millions of dollars at the developers of a snazzy residential complex in Uptown, or the landscaping around the Library. 

It also doesn’t give elected officials their political jollies the way pandering to a couple hundred residents looking for $2,500 windfalls in the name of “flood control” does for Aldermen Frank Wsol and Don Bach.  Both of them also wanted to borrow $16 million or more to build a big new cop shop, too, but at least the voters were given the opportunity to tell them to pound sand (at least for the time being), thanks to the citizen-initiated referendum organized by resident Joe Egan – which was so good it couldn’t even be bollixed up by the ridiculous, last-minute referendum question submitted by…wait for it…Ald. Wsol.

And let’s not forget that it was Wsol who led the boneheaded effort to prevent Richie Daley’s water rate increase to be passed through to water users, adding at least $400,000 to this year’s budget deficit.  Bach led the cheers for Wsol on that one, too.

But Bach and Wsol aren’t alone in their financial foolishness.  You haven’t heard Alds. Jim Allegretti, Tom Carey, Rich DiPietro or Robert Ryan worrying publicly about the sewers when they are discussing how to continue and even increase their deficit spending, like by voting to give even more feel-good money to private community groups who just can’t seem to gain the public support needed to fund themselves without going on the taxpayers’ dole.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, it should become painfully obvious soon: The City is in a world of economic hurt, and the officials who are supposed to be solving these problems are whistling past the graveyard – when they’re not throwing gasoline on the fire!

Until the Council and Staff figure out that every $2,500 spent on a back-check valve is $2,500 less for repair or replacement of a crumbling sewer, the quality of our community’s infrastructure is going to continue to disintegrate like those clay tiles running 10 feet under our streets.   

5 comments so far

Maybe it’s time for Schmidt to appoint a “Sewer Czar.” Zingsheim’s lack-of-funding schtick is growing tired, and his strategy for fixing the problem is just to spend more money. If he had the half-million to line sewers, he wouldn’t know where to start.


Sure he would, if he could locate the old “priority list”. The “priority list” that got set aside in favor of the alley paving program and the lottery selection for the paving schedule, which I believe might also have been set aside in favor of the contractor’s preferred scheduling.

If a half-million solved the problem I would be dancing in the streets!! 500K is not even close!!!

ANON 9/4/09:

I agree that $500K “is not even close,” but it is a step in the right direction, and a direction that it sounds like we’ve been going opposite to for some time.

I didn’t vote for Schmidt, but if this financial stuff is true I might start to feel sorry for him, because it sounds like he inherited a real mess.

1120…”a real mess” is a real understatement. Read Schmidt’s white paper on the rebate program if you have not already. It pretty well sets out the depth of the mess he has inherited. I think the Watchdog posted it some time in August.

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