Leaning water tower removed in 400-block West Huron in River North; Building failed inspection, I-Team learned

February 22, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Crews cut power to the block as a precaution as the removal operation got under way. According to city records, that water tower should have come down a long time ago.

People inside the building said they heard a large crack and water began gushing from the tower shortly before 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

"All of a sudden I heard this loud bang, like metal kind of straining or popping," said Scott Christiansen, witness.

Officials say about 18,000 gallons of water was released from the tank. Water flooded the basement of the building, and some of the upper floors got soaked as well.

"When I came out of the building, it was like a waterfall coming down the back of the building," said Courtney Jurick, Serafin & Associates.

Around 180 people from two commercial buildings in the 400-block of West Huron were evacuated Friday afternoon. Streets in the area have also been shut down. City officials don't have an age of this particular tank, but similar structures across the city are over 100 years old.

After vehicles were towed from surrounding streets, work began to dismantle the crippled water tower. Structural engineers were called to the scene earlier on Thursday to assess the situation.

"Right now the building department is on the scene making their assessments, structural engineers are en route and they're going to make a determination if this can be fixed or repaired. But whatever has to be done, it has to be done immediately," said Chief Michael Fox, Chicago Fire Department.

"You have the patients coming. We have patients scheduled here today. We cannot see them. I don't know when we're going to open again, so I apologize for all my patients," said Dr. Ilan Tur-Kaspa, evacuated tenant.

The I-Team has learned the building at 409 W. Huron failed its most recent inspection on December 31, 2013.

The building owners received 12 code violations including failing to maintain the water tower. City inspectors also cited 409 W. Huron for failing to maintain the exterior walls and loose or rotting boards. They found dangerous and hazardous conditions on the southeast corner of the building, and the water tower with bulging, shifting and pulling away from the structure over the public way.

Documents show it was four years ago that the city first warned the building's owners to "repair, replace, or remove" that water tower. Tenants say the building's ownership is held in a trust. An attorney for the building has not responded to our request for comment.

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