Excavator digs the foundation

CIPP: Everyone’s doing it, except Chicago

For months, Andersonville residents have been voicing their displeasure over the potential loss of fully mature trees in their neighborhood due to new water mains being installed.

But despite promises to explore every option to save the trees, the city’s Department of Water Management didn’t pursue a non-invasive technology – Cured-In-Place-Pipe (CIPP) method – that has the potential to cut costs while saving the city’s most valuable and vulnerable trees.

The water department told residents that due to aging water lines and the need to meet Illinois EPA standards, a dig and replace method would need to be used, causing the loss of many trees whose root systems would be compromised.

CIPP technology has been used successfully in many cities nationwide, including cities in Illinois and by our certified installers. The CIPP method uses a resin-saturated felt tube is inverted or pulled into a damaged pipe. It is usually done from the upstream access point (manhole or excavation). Little to no digging is involved in this trenchless process, making for a potentially more cost-effective and less disruptive method than traditional “dig and replace” pipe repair methods. Lines can then last upwards of 50 years or more.

Chicago has dipped its toes in the CIPP method testing the technology in 2017 but decided to forego the method. Why? The Illinois EPA has said that Chicago never pursued a permitting option that included the use of CIPP. But that doesn’t make sense since the department doesn’t need approval from the Illinois EPA.

Since 2014, Chicago has been a self-permitting city when it comes to water main projects, according to an agreement between the Illinois EPA and the city.

Another reasoning behind the no CIPP-use? The water department has blamed water quality issues, but reports say otherwise.

Reports after the CIPP pilot in 2017 actually showed water quality improved, marginally, but it improved.

The water department’s other issue with the CIPP pilot was “gaps between the liner that could not be disinfected or flushed.”

Both the contractors who worked on the project and a third-party testing analysis concluded that the water department’s conclusion was “unfounded.” The contractors also note the pipe with CIPP is still in use today.

The city of Chicago would see so many benefits if it started using the CIPP method:

  • No need to excavate an entire road section as the pipe can be rehabilitated while in place.
  • Keeps traffic and all other construction-related disruptions to a minimum.
  • Economic savings compared with a full replacement.
  • Minimal disruption of water service to residents.

Many municipalities within the surrounding Chicago areas are users of the CIPP method and some cities have saved millions by implementing the technology.

Maybe in the future, Chicago will come to its senses and start using the technology that has benefitted so many residents, cities and businesses around the nation.

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