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Andersonville Neighbors Had Thought They Had Another Option, But Trees End Up Coming Down For Water Pipeline Repairs

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Trees make a neighborhood, but so many planted in Chicago are just inches from aging water pipelines.

As CBS 2's Marie Saavedra reported, some living in Andersonville hoped the city had found alternative to ripping up their rooted trees to fix, but they were wrong. And on Tuesday night, some trees they had hoped would remain standing had been reduced to stumps.

"I have lived in this neighborhood since 1983," said Julie Wlach.

Trees frame the Andersonville blocks that Wlach calls home - a canopy generations in the making. But this week nearly a dozen of these shady stalwarts are coming down, on four east-west streets - Balmoral, Summerdale, Berwyn, and Farragut avenues.

"It has us gob smacked," Wlach said.

Trimming started Tuesday morning, captured in photos from neighbors. By afternoon they were stumps, with more rings than the number of minutes it took in total to take down. It is all because in Andersonville, like in many Chicago neighborhoods, the pipes under root need work.

"Initially the Water Department said, 'We have to cut down these trees because we have to dig down, because we ran into a problem,'" Wlach said.

Neighbors fought to keep this from happening for years. They even asked the city to look into doing a kind of repair that protects these older trees.

It's one that has been successfully used in cities as big as Toronto and as close as Evanston – called cured-in-place pipeline technology, or CIPP.

The repair involves a liner placed inside old pipes, buying their structure more time at a less invasive scale. Evanston shared pictures of the process, which it has used since 2014.

Andersonville neighbors persuaded the City of Chicago to test it out, which it did, But in a statement, the Department of Water Management told CBS 2 it "did not meet the standards necessary to reliably extend the life of the drains."

"Devastated," Wlach said. "We thought we had succeeded."

The neighbors are now mourning with the random rocks and flowers that now mark their losing effort.

Neighbors acknowledge water pipe repairs are important. But for some, the cost of that work irrevocably changes the framing of where they call home.

"We have people now who say they are going to move because of this," Wlach said.

Chicago's Department of Water Management said in addition to the CIPP process, it is testing other technologies that can help save trees.

The department said it will share a full report on what worked when that testing is complete. There was no word late Monday on when that would be.

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