LAKEVIEW — A structural engineer's report filed after the Brewster Building water tank failed a city inspection three years ago found that the structure was "safe," but cited several problems with rust in the structure.
The water tank fell from the top of the famous Lakeview condominium at Diversey and Pine Grove avenues late last month, critically injuring a 27-year-old woman.
According to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the Chicago Department of Buildings, the Brewster failed a February 2010 iron inspection, which specifically asked a structural engineer to address the water tank and its support structure.
That subsequent report, written in November 2010 by Thomas Litka of the Advanced Consulting Group, found that "the water tank and its support structure appear to be in safe condition," but cited rust spots not mentioned in the initial city inspection. It suggested, "Required maintenance on the water tank and its support structure should be initiated as soon as possible."
Litka's report said, "Steel rod tension hoops ... exhibit some rust spots; therefore, the hoops require scraping and painting."
It added that bent nails holding the hoops in place "are rusty and should be checked for anchorage during the painting process and replaced as necessary."
It also found that steel beams beneath the water tank "appear in good condition, but have peeling paint and have surface rust and require scraping and painting."
According to the Mayor's Office, the city received that report and "pursuant to the structural engineer's report, the building scraped and painted the exposed members as recommended."
But it did not confirm independently the work was up to code, as iron inspections typically take place every five years.
Litka and Advanced Consulting did not return calls for comment. First Community Management, which administers the building for the Brewster Condominium Association, referred questions to its lawyer, Christopher Buenik, who declined to comment.
The city Buildings Department is investigating the cause of the water tank accident.
Lauren Hussar, 27, was injured while trying to move her belongings in an alley when the tank fell. She and Jack Baginski, 29, who was helping her move, filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the Brewster Condominium Association, both seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages.
Christopher Lynch, Freedom of Information Act officer for the Buildings Department, confirmed that water tanks are inspected about every five years. The city has four budgeted positions for iron inspectors examining about 150 tanks remaining across the city, he said.
Rooftop water tanks were developed after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but came to serve double duty by increasing water pressure in high-rises.
Water service to the Brewster Building was cut off after the tank toppled, and residents were advised to buy bottled water immediately after the accident.
Rooftop water tanks are beloved by many architecture aficionados and were protected, in part, by a 2006 preservationist ordinance. One local architect won a competition to develop a new use for the tanks, but the proposal ultimately was ignored by the city.