Cook County, Alsip step up to stop flooding from Robbins water main break

Flooding has been stopped on a corner of Chicago’s Beverly Woods neighborhood four months after a water main owned by the village of Robbins broke, causing damage to property and public health concerns

Because the water main belongs to Robbins, the break occurred in Alsip and affected homes and train tracks border Chicago and Blue Island, the leaders of multiple municipalities jockeyed over who should pay for and manage the repair.

In the end, leaders tell the Daily Southtown, Alsip is assisting by supplying the residents of Robbins with water while Cook County manages the long-term repair.

“I think we’re in a much better position,” said Chicago 19th Ward Ald. Matt O’Shea. “People continue to receive fresh and safe water.”

Public health was a concern early on. The break allowed foreign objects and microbes to possibly enter the waterline, which was still delivering water to homes in Robbins before being shutoff Feb. 29.

Cook County’s Highway Department is securing permits it needs to fix the break, O’Shea said. He said he is confident this long-term solution will be done in the next few weeks.

The location of the pipe break makes it difficult because it is under feet of gravel and train tracks on the 2600 block of 119th Street in Chicago.

Workers needed to completely shut off the water to stop the flooding, reduce public health concerns and fix the main. Mayor John Ryan of Alsip said the village is allowing Robbins use its water, a solution that has had no downside for Alsip, he said.

“The water being supplied to the Village of Robbins is approx. only 11% of what Alsip is pushing through its supply lines,” Ryan wrote in an email. He also echoed the hope the repair will be fully complete by the end of April, at which point Robbins can resume using its own water main.

But even if that timetable is extended, Alsip can supply Robbins with water it needs for as long as it takes, Ryan said. Alsip’s leaders have received no complaints from their own residents about decreases in their water pressure or performance. Plus, Alsip has a meter running on the outgoing water so Robbins will be charged for the water it uses.

“Everything has gone real well so far,” Ryan said. “And Cook County said they will assume the responsibility from the construction costs.”

Natalia Derevyanny, director of communications for the county’s bureau of administration, said in an email Wednesday construction is expected to begin this month.

“The County’s contractor plans to repair the watermain by adding a lining within the pipe which is designed to seal the existing leaks,” Derevyanny said.

Only when construction begins will the county have a better sense for the cost of the operation and timeline, she said.

Robbins Mayor Darren Bryant said he thanked Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the county for “making sure that the people of Robbins have security and access to water during this major catastrophe.”

Since the last days of 2023, water could be seen gushing out of a hole under the train tracks, creating a small lake on the east side of the tracks. A loud, above ground portable pump that gave off diesel fumes ran all day for weeks to reduce flooding by moving runoff into a manhole.

The situation was so bad that Vanessa Macias, who lives in the house closest to the tracks on Chicago’s border with Alsip and Blue Island, moved out of her home and into a spare unit in Brighton Park owned by her partner’s parents to avoid the sound and smell. Her backyard and front lawn also flooded, leading Macias to shudder at the thought of how much repairing her grass and fence will cost.

But now, Macias said, the situation is better. She and her partner moved back to her place. The former flood zone that pushed water into her plot has dried up, leaving behind harmless debris. And while small pools of water still abound, none are on her property and the newly formed pooled water by the road was caused by rain, not the burst pipe, she said.

“We have no more flooding in the yard,” said Macias. “I was very happy with what the city did before they left.”

Macias knows it’s a longshot, but said she is still seeking any reparations for the damage caused by the flooding. For now, she is happy to be back in her home. There is an occasional musty smell in her basement, she said, but the loud ringing sound is gone and her yard is making a comeback.

“We’ve been able to get some peaceful sleep and get back into our normal routine. That’s for sure,” she said.