The Secret $4BN Tunnel Network Under Chicago | Summary and Q&A

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February 1, 2023
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The B1M
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The Secret $4BN Tunnel Network Under Chicago

TL;DR

Chicago has a secret underground tunnel network, known as the deep tunnel system, which has been built to combat the effects of climate change by managing overflow and pollution caused by heavy rain and storms.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why did Chicago raise the entire city off the ground?

Chicago raised the city to solve severe drainage problems caused by its flat and low-lying geography, which led to mud-filled streets and pools of standing water following storms. Raising the city allowed for the construction of a comprehensive sewer system.

Q: How was the Chicago River redirected into the Mississippi River?

To solve the problem of sewage flowing into Lake Michigan, Chicago reverse engineered the Chicago River by constructing locks, a new canal, and pumping stations to change the river's direction towards the Mississippi River. This reversed the flow of the river.

Q: What is the purpose of the deep tunnel system in Chicago?

The deep tunnel system is designed to manage overflow and pollution caused by heavy rain and storms. It intercepts water from combined sewers, directs it into underground tunnels, and stores it in reservoirs before treatment and release to alleviate flooding and contamination issues.

Q: How does the deep tunnel system contribute to the fight against climate change?

The deep tunnel system plays a critical role in combating the effects of climate change as it helps manage excess water caused by heavy rain and storms. It prevents property damage, contamination of drinking water, and reduces pollution levels.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Chicago's geography, being flat and low-lying, led to severe drainage problems in the past, causing the city to raise itself up from the mud and redirect the Chicago River into the Mississippi River.

  • The deep tunnel system, constructed since the 1970s, consists of a 175-kilometer underground tunnel network with three reservoirs to manage overflow and pollution from storms.

  • Construction of the deep tunnel system has reduced pollution by nearly 85% and is now seen as a critical tool in combating the effects of climate change, as heavy rain and storms increase.

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