— Sewage gushed up Lori Burns’s toilet. It swept the floor. It wrecked the
water heater, the deep freezer, her mother’s wedding veil.
basement invasion was the third in five years. Burns, 40, could no longer
afford to pay a cleanup crew. So she slipped on polka dotted rain boots, waded
into the muck, wrenched out the stand-pipe and watched the brown water drain.
South Side native, a marketing specialist, estimated damages at $17,000. And
that did not include what she could not replace: the family heirlooms, the
oriental rugs, her cashmere sweaters. The bungalow had flooded four times from
1985 to 2006, when her parents owned it. Lately, it flooded every other year.
Burns felt nature was working against her. In a way, it was.
storm frequency is particularly problematic in Chicago, where the sewer system
was designed to absorb rain nearly 120 years ago. The city’s storm water
systems were built on the assumption that the biggest storms happen only once
each decade, at a time when the population was much smaller, said Robert Moore,
who leads a climate preparation team at the Natural Resources Defense Council
in downtown Chicago. “Climate change will only amplify an existing issue.”...
The combined sewer system overflows when an inch of rain soaks the city, directing waste into the Chicago River. If more than 1.5 inches of rain fall city-wide in a day, Moore said, it floods basements across town, disrupting lives and bank accounts. ...