Beneath the streets of Arlington Heights lies a world taken for granted by residents until the skies open up and their basements flood.
Like a crossword puzzle beneath your feet are more than 270 miles of cast iron and ductile pipes that carry potable water and sewage distribution separately to and from homes in Arlington Heights.
Bob McNamara, pump operator for the city of Arlington Heights, dons a protective white suit with a safety harness to face the dark, damp underworld, also known as the Mount Prospect stormwater booster station.
Maintained by the Arlington Heights Public Works Department, the facility borders Mount Prospect and Arlington Heights, and deals mostly with stormwater runoff flowing from Arlington Heights.
Down some 40 feet underground, McNamara encounters remnants of trees, dish towels, dead animals and the occasional empty bottle of liquor floating in the earthy-smelling soup. His main job is to keep the pumps' impellers clear, using a flashlight and mirror to peer into the chocolate-colored water. The public has no idea what it takes to keep the system going, says McNamara.
“It is hard work to keep it all flowing,” he says. “It is either here or in their basements.”
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