It's a cinch: Crew members work on installing new piping, called Aqua Pipe, inside the 250 feet of water lines that run beneath I-290.

When a water main breaks under the expressway, Oak Park can’t shut down six lanes of traffic to dig a giant hole. So crews had to get a little creative last week.

The solution: a company from Missouri had to string a 240-foot-long piece of fabric through the busted pipe and pump it full of hot water to try and repair the artery. The magic material came by way of Canada, and is one of just a few manufactured in the country that’ll allow for drinking water to pass through it.

“We won’t be anywhere on the highway at all, and that’s why we’re doing it this way. The state won’t let us dig up their highway to replace the pipe,” said Village Engineer Jim Budrick.

The water main is about 240 feet long and stretches north-south under the expressway along Ridgeland between Garfield and Harrison. It was first installed in the late 1950s, when the federal government built the Eisenhower Expressway, and hasn’t been touched since, according to Budrick.

A couple of years ago, a 6-inch hole busted in the water main under the east-bound side of traffic, and the pipe has sat unused since. Oak Park has plenty of backups, though, with four other water mains stretching under the Ike and three pumping stations in the village, allowing them to keep the system pumping despite the break.

But to help improve the performance, Oak Park hired Sheridan Plumbing, out of Burr Ridge, last year at a cost of $241,000. Sheridan then hired a subcontractor, Missouri-based SAK Construction, to install the lining.

Workers recently dug holes on the grassy banks of the Ike at both Garfield and Harrison to be able to reach the pipe. Then they cut a hole in the water main on each end to access the inside.

Last week, SAK sent a water “jetter” through one end of the pipe, which blasts water every which way and rockets from one side of the expressway to the other. A rope is tied to that jetter, and then dragged back across the expressway with a camera attached to it to search for any problems.

A backhoe then slowly dragged the rope under the Eisenhower yet again with the long length of fabric attached to it. The “Aqua Line” material is stored in a refrigerated truck beforehand, to keep it from hardening prematurely, according to Budrick.

Once it was in place, SAK pumped hundreds of gallons of 160-degree water under the expressway to expand the material and set off the chemical reactions, according to Gerald Hall, a superintendent for the company. He planned to let the water cool overnight, before it was drained on Saturday morning.

“That’s an integral part of the process,” Hall said. “It’s like anything, if you heat it up too quick or cool it down too quick, you can make things brittle or not as pliable as they should be, so we do it over a longer period of time.”

Workers from Sheridan are expected to sanitize the inside of the piping this week and connect it back to the water system shortly after. Joe Kreml, the village’s TV station manager, plans to post a video on the village’s website, www.oak-park.us, in the next week or two.

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