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Stinky Pool of Water on N. Paulina Hasn't Receded For Months, Neighbors Say

By Benjamin Woodard | June 28, 2013 6:15am | Updated on June 28, 2013 12:57pm
 James Huffer said the "smelly cesspool" that formed at a clogged catch basin at Thome Avenue and Paulina Street is a health hazard.
6300 block North Paulina Street
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EDGEWATER — A pool of standing water near a sewer catch basin has been stinking up the 6300 block of North Paulina Street for months, neighbors say.

Resident James Huffer said rainwater has had a tough time draining from his street since October, and has collected into a "stinking cesspool" just outside his single-family home.

He can't even open his home's windows because of the stench, he said.

"It smells like a hog lot, you know what I mean?" the 44-year-old banker said.

On Wednesday, after a heavy rainfall, the water on the street stretched nearly curb to curb, while passing cars splashed it onto parked ones.

Huffer and his neighbors said they've called both 311 and Ald. Pat O'Connor's 40th Ward office for help, but the city has yet to send crews out to unplug the sewer drain.

O'Connor's chief of staff, Tim Czarnecki, said there are 79 backlogged requests for clogged drains, just like Huffer's, throughout the ward.

"It’s a lot," he said. "It stems over from last year."

Czarnecki said the number of clogged sewer drain reports was the most he's seen in his 15-year tenure with the alderman.

This week, in fact, O'Conner directed his staff to compose a letter to Chicago's Department of Water Management to ask what's taking crews so long to get to the 40th Ward, he said.

But the city says its crews are out in force to maintain its 47,000 catch basins — and aren't backlogged with requests.

"By and large, we get to our requests in a correct amount of time," said Gary Litherland, a spokesman for the department.

Dan Luna, Ald. Harry Osterman's 48th Ward chief of staff, and Wayne Frazier, staff assistant to Ald. Joe Moore (49th), agreed that the department's efforts have been satisfactory.

They say their wards don't have backlogged requests.

"I have had nothing but excellent response for every [clogged] catch basin," said Luna.

Huffer wonders, however, why his street, less than a block from a U.S. Postal Service branch, has been neglected.

"Everyone who walks past here looks at it and says, 'Oh, what's that smell?'" he said. "It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes and bugs."

Neighbor Irene Bermudez said she's also called multiple times to report the standing water. So has neighbor Mary Collier.

"People around here take care of stuff," Collier said, praising Huffer's efforts to maintain a neighboring church's gardens and grass surrounding the post office.

Litherland said after heavy rainfall like Wednesday's, water shouldn't stay above ground for more than four hours. Sometimes, he said, residents see water collected on the street after a downpour and think there's something wrong.

"We want it to stay on the street," he said, but after three or four hours, if the water doesn't drain, there could be a problem.

He said either there's debris blocking the catch basin opening, or possibly, a malfunctioning "rain blocker" — a device used to regulate how much water deluges into the city's sewer system to keep basements free of human excrement.

He said he'd look into the clogged drain on Paulina as well as the 40th Ward's other requests, but said the department handles "all the requests the same.

"There’s no reason that one [person] would get services and another would not," said Litherland.