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Thornton Reservoir to handle water excess on Chicago’s South Side Thornton Reservoir to handle water excess on Chicago’s South Side(0)

August 21, 2015


“[The current] system works well in dry weather, but in heavy rains the intercepting sewers and water reclamation plants can reach capacity and result in combined sewer overflows into the river, impairing water quality and contributing to flooding,” said Allison Fore, the public and intergovernmental affairs officer for the MWRD. “TARP is being built to capture 20.5 billion gallons of that combined sewage and store it so that it doesn’t end up in the waterways or basements.”

The Thornton reservoir, one of three reservoirs in the TARP project, is 700 feet wide by 1,400 feet long with a 300 foot depth, and holds 7.9 billion gallons.

“[Right now] I believe that this is the biggest reservoir of this kind in the United States, and maybe the world,” said Adel Awar, the project’s senior civil engineer.

To put it into perspective, this massive space could hold twelve Soldier Field’s stacked on together. It will collect water from a 91 square mile area, serving about 556,000 people south of 87th St. in Chicago, as well as in 13 of Chicagoland’s southern municipalities.

“People in the affected areas will see less pollution in the Cal Sag Channel, less flooding and basement backups, and more wildlife diversity. The reservoir won’t solve all problems but the help it will provide will be substantial,” said Fore.

The reservoir will take in water through two tunnels; a smaller one, 20 feet in diameter, will bring in stormwater from area riverways, and the other, 30 feet in diameter, will connect with the existing tunnel system to bring sewage into the storage space. Water will flow naturally into the reservoir and gates will hold the water there until dry weather conditions are reached. Then the gates will slowly open and let water flow back into the tunnels and toward the treatment plants.

“Now the flow can come easily from the tunnel to our reservoir,” Awar said. But he added that each municipality will have to make sure their tunnel systems are updated and able to send their overflow to the reservoir.

“All the municipalities, they have to do their homework to improve their system and to get a good collection system,” he said. If any municipality does not have a compatible system, “we can’t help them.”

The reservoir is a converted quarry; it was mined out by Hanson Material Service (HMS) for it’s limestone, which is used to make cement used in roadways. Once HMS finished, MWRD bought the leftover cavern and began converting it into the Thornton Reservoir. This process has included installing a “grout curtain” around the walls to ensure that the porous limestone surface does not let water escape. About one gallon of grout is inserted into the ground for every cubic foot of space, leading to a combined 150 miles of grout strips. The two tunnels also had to be dug, installed, and fortified with grout and cement.

“You have a lot of different aspects of construction, all of them under civil engineering,” Awar said of taking on the massive project. “I get sick of small buildings here and there… I told my bosses I wanted to end my career with a big civil project.”
The reservoir is the second piece of the larger three-part TARP project, which began construction in 1975 and is projected to be completely finished in 2029. The first, the Majewski Reservoir near O’Hare airport, holds 350 million gallons of water. The final piece, the McCook reservoir, will hold 10 billion gallons and become the largest reservoir in the country. At 8 billion gallons, Thornton is an impressive and impactful addition to the project and is predicted to save $40 million per year in flood damages.

The complete TARP project has been called the “largest civil engineering project on Earth,” and according to the MWRD’s website, “TARP was named by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of the nation’s top Clean Water Act success stories and is serving as a model urban water management tool worldwide.”

Lincoln Park Chicago mental health facility Clayton Residential Home struggles with lack of Illinois state budget Lincoln Park Chicago mental health facility Clayton Residential Home struggles with lack of Illinois state budget(0)

August 13, 2015

2026 Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614
By: ahermans

“There’s no way that we could exist without a budget,” worried Jessica Lyke, the executive director of Clayton Residential Home, a specialized mental health and rehabilitation facility (SMHRF) for adults with mental illness.

Illinois recently entered its second month without a state budget; state lawmakers failed to approve a balanced budget before the start of the 2016 fiscal year on July 1. State funded programs like Clayton will still receive funding for the next couple months, only because the state is behind in sending payments to the facilities. But beyond that, everything is uncertain.

On Tuesday, August 4, the Illinois Senate approved a plan that would free up nearly $5 billion for various programs affected by the budget stalemate, including, among a long list of other items, SMHRFs. After some amendment, it was approved by the House on Wednesday, and must go back through the Senate before making it to Governor Rauner’s desk.

But this plan still only constitutes temporary relief for some facilities. If no permanent budget is put in place, funding to many state programs could stop altogether. If a budget is passed, there is no guarantee that Clayton will get the funding it needs. Governor Rauner’s original proposed budget would cut $82 million from the Department of Human Services’ Division on Mental Health, as well as $1.5 billion from Medicaid.

“Right now the governor wants to give us zero,” Lyke said. “He wants to cut us out of the budget.”

Clayton provides specialized programming and 24-hour care for more than 200 people with severe mental illnesses, about 5% of the mentally ill population in Illinois. Its activities encourage residents to learn about their illnesses, treatment options, and wellness. It also provides practical skills to help residents stabilize and re-enter the Chicago community. Residents have the opportunity to participate in more than 45 different groups including therapy sessions, cooking and laundry classes, and expeditions around the city.

“There’s a lot of focus here on recovery and wellness, instead of trying to focus on illness and symptoms and problems,” said Lyke.

Clayton resident Marion Gates participates in the cooking group.

“Some of the things that we provide are required by the state law,” said Lyke, including nursing, dietary, and security standards. “What Clayton does… is go well beyond what the state requires, and that obviously costs money.”

Lyke said that Clayton has six employees with clinical licenses, though the state does not require any. Their specialty programming, including the groups and activities listed above, are not specifically required by the state, but are things Lyke believes are essential to the residents’ experience at Clayton.

“Those are things that we’re very committed to keeping, but obviously if we don’t have money, those will be the things that will eventually have to go,” Lyke said.

Arnie Kanter, the senior director of external affairs for Barton Management, the parent group that oversees Clayton and several other facilities, pointed out that their care model is more cost effective than alternatives. The state pays Clayton $110 a day total, compared to the approximately $800 a day that an emergency hospitalization would cost for each patient. With this money, Clayton is able to provide much more personalized and comprehensive care than hospitalization. Other alternatives, such as nursing home placement or time in jail, also cost the state money.

“We become not only a programmatic effective facility, but also a cost effective facility,” Kanter said. “Everyone understands that folks with mental illnesses are high utilizers of services.”

Through peer and administrative support, each Clayton resident gets personalized care to match their needs and wellness goals.

“No two people with schizophrenia look alike, no two people with depression look alike,” Lyke said, adding that oftentimes residents have never had a chance to fully learn about their illness and symptoms before Clayton. “It’s really an opportunity to sit down and take that individualized approach with somebody and help them figure it out.”

The administration at Clayton and at other SMHRFs across the state are worried about whether they can continue providing these extensive services, which they see as essential, in the face of the budget impasse. In May, Clayton staff put together a YouTube video to help raise awareness for their facility, show what it means to its residents, and ask the community for help.

“I’m getting day-to-day support, I have people I can trust and turn to in times of trouble, and I average about 2 hospitalizations every 3 years now, as opposed to one every two weeks,” said Andy S., a Clayton resident, in the YouTube video.

People like Andy rely on Clayton for the support that they need to survive. If the facility shuts down, its 200 residents will have limited options. Some will wind up in nursing homes that are not equipped to care for their illnesses and where they will be a disturbance to other nursing home residents. Some will move back in with their families, who seldom have the time or know-how to support their loved ones. Others will end up on the streets, and could easily fall victim to crimes or be picked up by the police. Residents and their families are terrified of what will happen if no budget is secured for Clayton in the coming months.

“We got hundreds of letters from people, and people testified in Springfield saying ‘If it weren’t for a facility like Clayton, my loved one would be dead, my loved one would be in jail, my loved one would be dying of alcoholism or drug addiction, my loved one would be living on the streets,” Lyke said of the response Clayton got when talks first began about cutting funding for SMHRFs.

Lyke said that statements have been made year after year in the state government claiming that SMHRFs like Clayton limit the freedoms of their residents. Many of these came in 2011, after a consent decree was passed in the class action lawsuit Williams v Quinn, which essentially makes it easier for SMHRF residents to leave facilities like Clayton and re-enter their communities.

“This has been on the table for almost as long as I’ve been here,” said Lyke, who has directed Clayton for two years and before that worked as the clinical director for six years. “There were a lot of statements being made… that nobody needed to live in a place like this, and places like this should be shut down. We’re warehouses, we don’t provide any services for people, we’re just trying to make money off of people. I took that very personally.”
A Clayton resident runs the incentive store, where residents can get rewards for accomplishing certain goals or daily tasks.

Despite their intent to keep serving their residents in the face of this opposition, Clayton has already had to tighten its belt to handle the effects of the budget impasse.

“Right now we’re making small changes. We’re not cutting anybody, but we’re not hiring anybody extra. We’re looking at ways to save money in every department,” Lyke said, including finding more affordable supplies, food, activities, and outings. She said if no funding is secured, Clayton would stay open as long as possible in order to help their 200 residents find places to go. Clayton’s closing would also spell unemployment for the facility’s 125 employees.

“Clayton provides structure, and support, and safety, and supervision that is necessary,” Lyke said. “We don’t intend to shut down. We don’t want to panic people.”

Lyke said she hopes that state lawmakers will eventually see that the services Clayton and other mental health facilities provide is necessary and worth funding. In addition, she hopes that lawmakers begin to see the value in the people utilizing their facilities.

“My hope as an altruistic dreamer is that our worth and value will be recognized as an extremely important part of the continuum of care for mental health needs in Illinois,” Lyke said. “The people who live here aren’t being valued. What it is that they need, and what it is that’s going to be helpful for them is overlooked because they’re not taken seriously. They’re not seen as something that’s worth funding.”

Techweek Chicago Jam Packed With Startups in Finance, Food, Fashion, Fitness, and Workspace Solutions Techweek Chicago Jam Packed With Startups in Finance, Food, Fashion, Fitness, and Workspace Solutions(0)

Merchandise Mart, Chicago, 60654

By:StartupCity #Chicago

During a jam-packed first day of Techweek Chicago 2015, speakers, vendors, and more than 100 entrepreneurs and startup companies engaged with each other, learned about others’ projects, and presented their own innovations.

Tech food startups

A large section of the conference hall was dedicated to the Techweek Launch Competition, which featured over 100 startup companies competing to win more than $250,000 in cash and prizes. Of the more than 100 companies in industries like food, fitness, fashion, and workspace creation, sixteen made it to the finals on Friday, June 26.


One of the most successful Chicago startups in attendance at Techweek was Avant, founded by entrepreneur Al Goldstein. In less than 3 years, the company has become the leader in providing online credit lending services for middle income people. Avant have created over 700 jobs for Chicagoans. Chicago Business reported in 2014 that Avant raised $225 million in one of the largest venture rounds for a Chicago startup history.


Two startup companies in the growing technology-based food service industry showcased their innovative meal options to conference attendee were Sprig from San Francisco and Chefmade from Chicago.
Chefmade prepares healthy meals that is delivered chilled and only requires reheating. All their meals are prepared by a chef who uses locally sourced ingredients. Users can order from their menu that changes weekly.
Sprig provides healthy, organic food delivery on demand. The Sprig app allows users to order healthy food and get it delivered within 15- 20 minutes for only $10-12 per meal. Sprig recently raised $45 million in funding and entered the Chicago market.


Fit Hero, FitPairs, and FitnFair all competed in the Techweek Launch Competition at Techweek Chicago. Each company created applications that to help people meet their fitness goals
Fit Hero provides on demand personal trainers delivered within 30 minutes or less. They used the Uber business model to provide individuals personal training. “We want affordable fitness for everybody,” said Gabe, personal trainer and founder of Fit Hero.
FitPairs provides opportunity pair people with similar fitness goals to work out and create accountability and team building. Users can find people nearby, schedule time and location to workout.
Fit ‘N Fair, aims to solve lack of motivation and procrastination within fitness market. They help users navigate gym memberships, equipment, and fitness tools that helps them reach their goals.


With the recent launch of the Apple Watch, there is a lot of excitement around wearable tech and fashion. At Techweek Chicago, three companies that focus on creating fashion applications in technology were Pyazza, Fad Channel, and FashionMe.
Pyazza allows users to purchase clothes from other members on the app. Users interact face to face during the transaction. Pyazza aims to build community around fashion.
Fad Channel is a interactive television network for fashion combines shopping and fashion into one channel. They make fashion and design more accessible to viewers of their content. FAD Channel empowers users to interact with our content, e-commerce, and local and national promotional events.
FashionMe app allows users to create new outfits from their own clothes.Users can add as many clothes and share their styles with friends in social media.


Creating workspaces that best suit startups companies are important. Two companies providing workspace solutions are Gallerique and SpaceHq.
Gallerique is a marketplace finding unique decor items from fine arts to antiques for workspaces. They provide consultation for clients to find the best items for their workspaces.
SpaceHq provides an online platform where small companies build out their space within weeks rather than months. They do the work to ensure clients find the best solutions for their workspace needs and culture.

Divvy Announces 175 New Bike Stations in Chicago During Its Data Challenge Awards Divvy Announces 175 New Bike Stations in Chicago During Its Data Challenge Awards(0)

1871, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, 60654

By: Eleanor Lyon

The Second Annual Divvy Data Challenge Awards 2015 were held 6-8 p.m. on April 14 in the 1871 tech incubator auditorium at the Merchandise Mart. The Divvy Data Challenge contest encouraged designers, developers and scientists to visualize over three million Divvy trips.

Divvy Bike Map

Divvy received about 40 entries and selected 12 finalists to compete at the April 14 event.
Designers and developers used datasets from Divvy combined trip, station and station capacity data from 2013 and 2014. Two entrants tied for Best Overall entry in Divvy Data Challenge 2015:
Matthew Shaxted with a 3D visualization of 2014 Divvy trip data using curves to show hourly trips between stations and a chord diagram to show daily flow between neighborhoods.
Shaun Jacobsen with a look at which mode is faster: Divvy or public transport?
See the full Divvy Data Challenge winners list
The winners of the Divvy Data Challenge were selected based on categories that include best overall visualization, most comprehensive, most beautiful, most creative and most insightful.
The first place entry from each category will appear in a full-page ad in the RedEye and on the Divvy website and will also receive prizes from Microsoft and Divvy, including an XBOX One, an XBOX Kinect and a Windows phone.

Divvy map Chicago
The company shared more about its Spring 2015 expansion that will include areas north of Lawrence Avenue, west of Western Avenue and south of 59th Street. There will be 175 new stations and 1,750 new bikes. With 475 stations over 87 square miles, Chicago will have the most bike share stations and the largest service area in North America.
In 2013, just 91 days after Divvy bikes came to Chicago, more than 8,900 people had signed up for Divvy’s annual membership. At that time, riders had already pedaled more than one million miles. In 2014, 905,700 rides were taken with Divvy bikes. It is safe to say the company has capitalized on bike sharing in Chicago.

Hundreds of Chicago Women in Tech Attended ARA Mentors Event at 1871 Chicago Tech Incubator Hundreds of Chicago Women in Tech Attended ARA Mentors Event at 1871 Chicago Tech Incubator(0)

1871 Tech Incubator, Chicago, IL (60654)

On Wednesday, December 10, 2014 hundreds of women attended the first ARA Mentors event at 1871 Chicago’s Tech Incubator. The goal of the event was to have a conversation with leading women who work in male-dominated sectors such as the culinary world, banking, and sportscasting.

The four Chicago women who participated on the ARA Mentors panel were Stephanie Izard, Executive Chef for Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Top Chef Season 4 Winner (@stephandthegoat), Connie Lindsey, Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion at Northern Trust (@connieleads), Sarah Spain, espnW Columnist & TV Personality, SportsCenter Anchor & Host for ESPN1000 (@SarahSpain), and Retired Colonel Jil Morgenthaler, Author, Leadership, Expert, International Speaker. I.C. Stars founder Sandee Kastrul (@sandeekastrul).

ARA aspires to Attract, Retain, and Advance women in technology by cultivating and nurturing relationships via mentorship and events/programs, thereby building strong female leaders to support and influence the IT community.


At the direction of moderator Sandee Kastrul, the women in the audience stood upon their feet and shouted “We are here!” in unison at the beginning of the event.

An employee at 1871 said this was the most women she has seen at an 1871 event since she started working there.



“Cover ever ground you stand on with confidence, courage and character”, said Connie Lindsey who gave many memorable advice to the women in attendance.


Confidence and leadership advice were among the main topics the panelists shared. Watch the video of the key takeaways they hope every women will apply to their professional lives.



According to a 2012 Dow Jones study, startup companies with more female executives were more successful than their counterparts. For more data points on technology and women, read Tech Republic’s 15 key statistics on the state of women in tech.



ARA Mentors support the advancement of women in IT by offering opportunities for women to mentor and to become mentees. The ARA event at 1871 was sponsored by Enova, a financial services company.

For more information about the ARA Mentors visit ARA Mentors

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