Flood relief on the way

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

burbank mayor photo 4-5

Submitted photo

Burbank Mayor Dan Foy speaks at the podium during a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday for the expansion of the Melvina Ditch Reservoir at the site at 6500 W. 87th St. in Burbank. Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and Stickney Township Supervisor Lou Viverito are standing directly behind him.


The Melvina Ditch Reservoir expansion aimed at alleviating flooding in Burbank and Oak Lawn officially began Monday, with a groundbreaking at the site at 6500 W. 87th St.

Burbank Mayor Dan Foy, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and Stickney Supervisor Lou Viverito joined Metropolitan Water Reclamation District President Mariyana Spyropoulos and other dignitaries to put the first shovels in the dirt at the 10 a.m. event.

Spyropoulos said the $20 million project, expected to be completed in early 2020, will more than double the storage capacity of the stormwater reservoir on the Oak Lawn border, expanding it from 54 million to 117.3 million gallons. The pumping station will also be modified to enable it to handle the increased volume, and a new emergency overflow weir is being installed to reduce the chance of the reservoir overtopping.

She noted that the reservoir was created in 1965, five years before Burbank was incorporated as a city. It was part of unincorporated Stickney Township, and the reservoir served an area of 21,000. It now handles runoff coming from throughout Burbank, with 28,000 people, as well as part of Bedford Park and much of Oak Lawn, on the south side of 87th Street.

The water from the reservoir is conveyed to an underground culvert that stretches from 87th Street to 95th Street, where it empties into the Melvina Ditch.

 Spyropoulos said the MWRD came up with the expansion plan after public meetings in local communities following heavy rains and flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods in April 2013, and again in June 2014.

“We heard the pleas for help and as the area’s stormwater authority, we had to do something,” she said.

“After getting input from Burbank and Oak Lawn neighbors and various stakeholders to address flooding concerns, the MWRD agreed to design an improved and expanded reservoir.”

The MWRD purchased 15 homes on the north and east sides of the reservoir and demolished them to make room for the expansion, which will include the removal of 80,000 tons of dirt. The project will also include the installation of a stormwater chamber and culverts at the outlet of the pumping station. Construction will extend to 87th Street to install the culverts and replace any disturbed utilities. Storm pumps will also be removed and serviced and impellers will be lengthened.

Engineers with general contractor F.H. Paschen said Monday that landscaping around the reservoir will complete the project.

“This is a great day for the city of Burbank, the village of Oak Lawn and the Southwest Side,” said Burbank Mayor Dan Foy. “I would like to commend MWRD for doubling the size of the reservoir and adding the emergency overflow. There are 430 residential properties that will have a reduced risk of flooding during storms. This is a great day.”

“During my lifetime in Burbank, we have had four ‘hundred-year rains.’ The rain is an act of God, but it is up to us to handle the water,” added Foy.

“This is indeed a very happy day for us, especially for the residents of the area. I can tell you when you speak to a resident whose home is underwater or taking on water, it is very sad. It means so much that we have a highly responsive group of people in the MWRD. This is pretty quick movement by government standards,” said Bury. “This will be a joy to watch. The difference this is going to make to the quality of life for people is enormous. Let’s get this done now.”

“I am very excited about it,” said Viverito, a longtime Burbank resident and former MWRD commissioner himself. “I am excited for Burbank, and Oak Lawn, and Bedford Park has been part of this. This is going to be great for the residents and businesses.”

He said the development of Burbank as a city would not have been possible without the creation of the reservoir, which he recalled was known as “Mud Lake.”

““What you’ve done with this expansion has touched the hearts and minds of Stickney Township and this whole area,” Viverito said.

Downstream communities, such as Bridgeview, Chicago Ridge and Worth will also benefit indirectly from the reservoir.

While the project is funded primarily by the MWRD, the agency did receive a grant from the state of Illinois through its Build Illinois Bond Fund.

“This is a great day for my constituents in Oak Lawn, Burbank, Chicago Ridge, and Alsip who have suffered from flooded basements, businesses, yards and streets,” said Cong. Dan Lipinski (3rd) in a statement. “I was happy to work with local officials and the MWRD to make this expansion of the Melvina Ditch Reservoir possible. This type of cooperation on local projects is what helps make our communities better places to live and work.”