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The Night the Water Tower Sprang a Leak

It was a quiet August evening at the historic Western Springs Water Tower. But, suddenly, a loud noise prompted the police chief to run upstairs.

Cutaway view of Water Tower - 1926
Cutaway view of Water Tower - 1926

In 1926, the Western Springs police department and village offices were located on the two lower floors of the historic water tower. Above them rested a 113,000 gallon steel tank, which supplied water to the entire town.  See photo.

On this particular August evening, Police Chief Clarence Burg was sitting at his desk on the Tower’s lower level when he heard a loud noise come from the upper portion of the water tower. He immediately ran upstairs and discovered water pouring through a three-foot-long crack. 

Burg quickly descended the stairs and called Mr. Sealy, the village’s maintenance man. The two men quickly began opening a dozen fire hydrants near the tower to reduce the water pressure and to drain much of the water to the sewers, rather than the 1st and 2nd floor offices. 

Upon further inspection, it was discovered that there had been a bad weld where two of the tank’s steel plates joined one another. It seems the tank had just been drained and refurbished the prior month, but the welding work was not up to par. Fortunately, there was little damage to the building. While drying out the offices and the Tower basement, the weld was quickly repaired and the tank re-filled. 

Today, the steel water tank still occupies the upper portion of the tower. However, it no longer holds water.  That task is now handled by the village’s much larger towers, one in Spring Rock Park and the other behind the Garden Market Shopping Center, as well as an underground reservoir at the village’s water treatment plant.

Ironically, in 2012, some 86 years after the first leak, a similar problem occurred at the village’s water tower in Spring Rock Park. However, this time the leak occurred during the night and went undetected until the following morning. And, instead of just 113,000 gallons, nearly a million gallons of water flooded the surrounding park grounds.

Each week, the Western Springs Historical Society presents a “Blast from the Past”. To view prior stories, visit us at www.westernspringshistory.org.  

 

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