The Department of Buildings
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100-Year Storms

One of the more confusing phrases used in meteorology and hydrology is "100-year storm". The phrase implies that an intense rainstorm dubbed as an "100-year" event brings rainfall totals heretofore unseen for 100 years, and not to be experienced again for another century. This is a logical, but incorrect conclusion to draw from the phrase. A "100-year storm" drops rainfall totals that had a one percent probability of occurring at that location that year. Encountering a "100-year storm" on one day does nothing to change your chances of seeing the same amount of precipitation the very next day.

Intense rainfalls are typically geographically isolated. Therefore, increased population density and improved precipitation monitoring networks have increased the likelihood of capturing (measuring) heavy rain events. Also, improved communication has allowed faster and more complete transfer of weather information. When the neighboring county is walloped by a "100-year storm", we hear about it quickly. Invariably we will vicariously "experience" the event and wonder why "100-year storms" seem to be occurring every other week.

Private Drains

Private Drain

This program is designed to help alleviate the financial burden homeowners incur when a sewer repair is required in the public way. Typically, homeowners could expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for these types of repairs. Now, the City of Chicago will be responsible for repairs to your private sewer drain in the parkway and in the street.

Contained in this brochure is information about your responsibility as a homeowner and the City's responsibility under this new program. It will also tell you the process you must follow to access the program and provide answers to the general questions you may have.

The Private Drain Program is part of our continuing effort to provide value-added services to our customers. We hope you will take advantage of this new program. For more information about this program or if you have any comments or questions, please call the City's non-emergency number 311.

The key points of the program are:

Program: The Department of Water Management will take over repairs of private drains from the main sewer to the property line effective January 1, 2002.

Procedure: Homeowner calls 311 and refers to the Private Drain Program.

Program: Includes residential properties up to and including four units.

Procedure: A Department of Water Management crew is dispatched to investigate.

Program: Maintenance and rodding of the private drain will remain the responsibility of the homeowner.

Procedure: The crew informs the homeowner whether the problem is in the main sewer or in the private drain.

Program: The program will save the average homeowner between $5,000 and $10,000 in repairs.

Procedure: If the problem is in the private drain, it is recommended that the homeowner hire a city licensed sewer contractor.

  • The contractor hired must call the Department of Water Management Permit Section at 312.747.8118 to obtain a permit to rod and videotape the private drain.
  • The contractor would then call the Inspections Section at 312.744.5503 to schedule an appointment with a house drain inspector to be present for the rodding and taping of private drain line.
  • The contractor must provide videotape of private drain line to the house inspector.
  • If the line can be opened by rodding, no Department of Water Maintenance action will be taken.
  • If the line cannot be opened by rodding, then the sewer contractor and the Department of Water Maintenance inspector determines if the break is on private property or in the public way.
  • If the break is on private property, the homeowner must hire a city licensed sewer contractor to repair the private drain line.
  • If the break is in the public way, the Department of Water Maintenance will repair the private drain line.