CITY HALL — Water towers atop buildings would have to be inspected every two years under a proposed city ordinance introduced in the City Council on Wednesday.
Currently, owners of buildings with water towers on top must have the tanks privately inspected every five years. Building owners must submit the inspections to the Department of Buildings.
Under the proposal, all tanks would have to be inspected by a licensed architect or structural engineer and the reports submitted to the city within one year of the ordinance passing and then every two year following.
The ordinance comes after a number of incidents involving old water towers, many of them erected decades ago to improve water pressure:
• In February in River North an old tank at 409 W. Huron began leaning and leaking, sending what was described as a "torrential downpour" to the street below.
• Last July, a tower in Lakeview fell from a nine story building and injured three people. That tower, at 2800 N. Pine Grove Ave., released thousands of gallons of water, knocking one woman out of her shoes.
• And in March, an iconic tower in Andersonville was removed after it was deemed unsafe.
In the middle of the 20th Century, there were as many as 5,000 such rooftop tanks across the city. Many are made of oak or cedar and have rotted. Even if they are not being used for their original purpose, the tanks are sometimes kept full of water to minimize rust and rot.
In a statement, Felicia Davis, commissioner of the Department of Buildings, cited "the increase in extreme weather incidents, including extreme heat, extreme freezing and high winds, combined with the aging of the tanks" for the tighter rules.