Pumping station work continues in Wilmette
The historical Wilmette Water Plant. | Eric Davis~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 22, 2012 3:38AM
Most drivers that cross the Sheridan Road bridge in Wilmette of late are oblivious to the work that’s going on beneath them.
And that’s just how the village, as well as the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, want it. The latter has been upgrading the Wilmette Pumping Station (which is located directly under the bridge, adjacent to the Wilmette Harbor) since last fall.
According to Allison Fore of the MWRD, the $17 million construction project will require no road closures and minimal traffic interruptions to the area–in part because the agency and its contractor — F.H. Paschen Company — have been working closely with representatives from the Baha’i Temple, the Wilmette Harbor Association, the Wilmette Park District, and the village since the work began.
Fore said the pumping station has served as the foundation of the bridge for a century now, and contains much of its original early 20th century equipment and structures. They are what are now being replaced, with the work financed by the MWRD.
As seen on a recent day, an expansive portion of the North Shore Channel — where it meets the bridge — has been sealed off by walls of thick steel, and water has been pumped out from around the base of the station. The lower portion of the facility, which is usually submerged, is now exposed — including parts of four tunnels that run under it. As needed, when the station is functioning, water flows from the lake (via the harbor) into the channel though the tunnels so that a desired level of water is maintained in the channel at all times.
But now, with the tunnels dry, workers at the site can be seen carrying out needed maintenance on the station. Meanwhile, the task of moving water into the channel is temporarily being handled by a massive pump and pipe that have been set up under the bridge. Watching its flow blast down into the channel, one can see just how much water must move though the station at times in order to keep the channel’s water level where the water district’s engineers want it. The Wilmette station is one of three such pumping stations that keep the Chicago River system functioning.
According to Brigitte Mayerhofer, director of Engineering Services for Wilmette, several trees were removed to accommodate the pump station restoration project. The MWRD is responsible not only for the maintenance of the station but the bridge and roadway that run above it as well.