Park Ridge water mains breaking at more than double rate
Park Ridge Public Works Streets Department worker Pat Navin shovels debris from a road while fixing a water main break in a driveway in August 2012. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2013 8:57PM
PARK RIDGE — The earth is moving under Park Ridge — and it’s wrecking havoc on the city’s system of underground pipes that carry water.
Last year’s drought, combined with unusual winter weather, is being blamed for an ongoing series of water-main breaks across the city. On Feb. 23, a main broke on the 1200 block of North Hamlin Avenue, marking the 100th rupture since May 1, 2012, the start of the city’s fiscal year. The 101st break followed two days later.
In a normal year, the city averages about 50 to 55 main breaks, meaning there have already been the double the number of ruptures — and two months still to go until the end of the fiscal year.
At the same time, there have been another 30 water-service leaks since last May. That’s also double the average yearly number, according to Ron Brubaker, supervisor of Park Ridge’s Water and Sewer Division.
Brubaker said last summer’s drought and a relatively dry — until lately — winter have caused shifting of the ground, which in turn caused water pipes to shift and move, resulting in the cracks. The frequent freeze and thaw cycles experienced this winter “will also play havoc with the earth moving,” Brubaker said.
“Once the moisture gets back in the ground, these things will calm down a little bit,” he said. “We’re definitely keeping our fingers crossed, that’s for sure.”
Director of Public Works Wayne Zingsheim added that without snow providing an insulator at the start of the winter, frost was able to permeate the ground more quickly, contributing to additional ground movement and main breaks.
The need for more repairs has, naturally, meant additional expenses for the city. Zingsheim said the Water and Sewer Division’s $50,000 overtime budget has already been exceeded by about $25,000, and money spent on materials is “at least a third or 50 percent higher than we normally would have spent.”
“Luckily we had a lot of supplies in stock, which we’ve gone through,” Zingsheim added. “Now we’re ordering more materials to keep up with it.”
Materials include sand and stone to fill the hole that is dug to repair the pipe.
Park Ridge is not the only community in the area to have bad luck with main breaks over the last year. Just about two months ago Des Plaines had already experienced 165 breaks, Zingsheim said.
“Everyone I talk to is having the same problems,” he said.