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Chicago’s water department tests new repair methods that don’t require digging up trees

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After a collective outcry from residents, the city changed course

A tree-lined street with small brick apartment buildings.
A Chicago neighborhood.

After residents were outraged by the water department’s insistence on chopping down trees in order to perform maintenance on underground pipelines, the city has decided to change course.

On Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Department of Water Management (DWM) announced two pilot programs that wouldn’t require the excavation of trees along neighborhood parkways.

The two programs will evaluate the use of pipe lining technologies to rehab water mains and private drains, rather than open trench replacement. The first method, cured-in-place pipe, essentially involves a seamless pipe within a pipe that only requires minimal digging at access points.

The second effort will assess the best way to rehab private drains with various pipe lining materials. It’s expected that this part of the pilot program will provide the most help in preserving neighborhood trees as private drains usually run from a home underneath a parkway and out to a sewer main.

“If we can find a solution to tree removal while also saving money, I think it’s a win for everyone,” said 40th Alderman Andre Vasquez in a statement. “These pilot programs will allow us to study and analyze our options in the hope of creating a plan that spares trees and hassle for my constituents.”