Niles adds green infrastructure project


By Igor Studenkov | Bugle Staff


The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago is teaming up with the village of Niles to reduce flooding in and around Oak Park.

The two entities will cover the funding necessary to install bioswale and permeable pavement on the north and east sides of the park. These pieces of green infrastructure will absorb water that would otherwise go straight to the sewers, ensuring that much of it will instead seep into the ground.

Village engineer Tom Powers said the project will benefit about 60 homes near the park.  

Normal pavement is impermeable, meaning water stays on top of it and flows into storm sewers. Unpaved ground is trickier, as some soils are permeable but others are less permeable. In either case, there is usually only so much water soil can absorb.

Powers explained that both green infrastructure projects aim to reduce the amount of water that goes into the sewers and reduce flooding.

Over on the south side of Lee Street, the village will install a bioswale, which looks like landscaping between the road and the sidewalk that slopes inward like a plate. This causes rain water to flow toward the middle of the landscaping and down into a layer of gravel. The plants on top of the gravel would be water-resistant, and the gravel would hold the water and allow it to sift into the ground. A pipe would move whatever water doesn’t go into the ground into the sewer.

Most of the section of Ottawa Avenue on the east side of Oak Park would be paved with permeable pavement. It would work similarly to bioswale, with the water going into the gravel below and eventually filtering into the ground.

Powers told the Bugle that the project wouldn’t have as much impact as larger Tier 1 projects, such as the Cleveland Avenue sewer project. However, the village still expects it to make an impact in smaller ways.

While the village doesn’t have any concrete plans for more green infrastructure, Powers said the village is currently looking at its existing flood-mitigation plans to see if green infrastructure could be added, as well as keeping an eye out for other possibilities.

“We are always looking for more opportunities to add [green infrastructure],” Powers said.

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