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Water Main Break Causes Severe Flooding, Shuts Down 2 Blocks Of Halsted Street In Lincoln Park

CHICAGO (CBS)-- Crews were installing a new pipes in the ground Thursday evening, more than 12 hours after a water main break sent gallons gushing into some businesses on Halsted Street just north of North Avenue.

The Department of Water Management initially said the pipe that burst in the 1600 block of North Halsted Street was installed in 1947. But officials later said the main that broke was actually a parallel main that dated back to about 1900.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, crews on the scene said they also found remnants of a rail line under the asphalt, which made fixing the break that much harder.

Starting around 5:30 a.m., Halsted Street going north from North Avenue was saturated with about 6 feet of water.

The affected stretch of Halsted Street is busy and fashionable – home to the Steppenwolf and Royal George theatres, numerous restaurants, and the historic Yondorf Hall at North Avenue with its Fey & Co. jewelry store.

Crews shut down the long and unbroken two-block stretch of Halsted Street from North Avenue north to Willow Street.

As crews worked Thursday to replace the nearly 73-year-old broken main, local businesses were tallying their damages.

The pristine tables were set at Circle Sushi & Grill, 1623 N. Halsted St. But without running water, they were forced to close on what is usually a busy day in the restaurant business.

"When I came in, I get a lot of calls for reservations, so I have to make sure that it's going to be done today," said Gloy Chaiprasit of Circle Sushi & Grill. "I hope so!"

Meanwhile, David Serrano found himself in another kind of jam.

"I was preparing a dinner and had a little whoops with a knife," he said.

He was supposed to get the stitches on his finger removed at Family Urgent Care center at 1631 N. Halsted St. But the clinic suffered significant water damage and was shuttered Thursday, and thus, Serrano was out of luck.

"I showed up kind of when I was supposed to, and yeah, obviously, they're closed," he said. "So I will have to figure something else out."

Aging infrastructure has been an uphill battle for Chicago's Department of Water Management, which has replaced 716 miles of water main since 2012.

A study by Chicago's Center for Neighborhood Technology found that aging pipes and outdated systems are wasting an estimated 14 to 18 percent of daily water use.

In the Great Lakes region alone, more than 66 billion gallons of water are wasted every year, which is enough to fill the Willis Tower 16 times.

The Mayor's office did announce a pilot program in September that would use a new technique for rehabbing water mains. It involves technology already in use in sewer systems.

But we checked, and as of Thursday, that program hadn't started yet.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said Thursday that the Halsted Street incident proves the investment is needed.

"We're working as fast as we can. We're well over halfway through replacing all of the mains in the city of Chicago. It would be good to get that done in the next couple of years," Hopkins said. "Until we do, we're going to continue to have incidents like this."

The affected businesses on Halsted Street and their patrons also said they'd like to see it happen sooner rather than later.

"It's such small margins just being closed one day, so the sushi place, other places like that – it's definitely going to affect their bottom line," Serrano said.

The city's Department of Water Management said it is aiming for the pilot program the Mayor's office announced to begin sometime in 2020.

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