Where were you on April 13, 1992? If you were in Chicago, it’s a day you will never forget. On that day, dozens of basements and underground facilities including those of the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) were flooded with 124 million gallons of water courtesy of the Chicago River. Chicago was home to several underground tunnels dating back to 1899 used for transporting coal and waste between buildings. The Illinois Telephone and Telegraph Company was in charge of digging the tunnels which were supposed to be used for telephone cables. Three years later, city officials were shocked to learn the company had dug significantly larger tunnels that could fit a small electric railroad.
Fast forward to 1992 and workers were surprised to show up to work the morning of April 13th to see fish swimming in their offices. Initially, people were baffled by the cause of the water. Where was it all coming from? According to this article, “The year before the flood, wooden pilings had been installed in the riverbed to protect the Kinzie Street Bridge from boat traffic. One of the pilings was driven into the bottom of the river alongside the wall of one of the tunnels, and soil displaced by the piling breached the wall, causing a crack in the ceiling.” Unbelievably, as this article states, “One of the city engineers missed the inspection of the new piling placement simply because he couldn’t find parking near the bridge.” In January of that year, a TV crew spotted the crack in the wall. The city dragged their feet in getting bids for repairs, not taking it as a serious problem. According to a Chicago Tribune article at the time, the first bid was $10,000 to plug the hole. Due to the city’s inactivity, by the time the flood receded it had cost the city nearly $2 billion.
Yes, the hole was sealed, the water went down, and Chicagoans got back to their lives, but imagine what would’ve happened if they had taken the problem seriously to begin with and just gone with the initial $10,000 bid, literally 1/200,000th the cost of what it ended up as. Underground leaks are scary and can lead to insanely expensive repair costs. We at Apex specialize in underground wet utilities. We have serviced thousands of Denver homes through water line replacements and sewer repairs. We’ve seen, more than most, the costly damage done from a sewer line backing up or from a leak in the water line. When a problem arises, don’t make the mistake of the 1992 Chicago city council and sit on it. Be proactive and seek help immediately. We at Apex will work with you to determine the best and most cost-efficient course of action to fix the issue. So if the need should arise, don’t wait. Contact Apex today!
For pictures of the flood, check out this Chicago Tribune page.