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  • Tonight is a cold, January night with snow predicted in Warrenville, Illinois. There are a group of men that have set up camp behind my home with trucks, pumps, shovels, and special lights to try and stem the flow of yet another city water line break.

    When a line this size breaks it is like a raging river has exploded. Almost immediately it force floods the surrounding ground until the soil can no longer absorb another drop of water, then it pours like a waterfall into any area that is “down river” such as a low driveway or a basement.

    This is the third time within a block of my home this has happened in the last eight years. Tonight I go out to see the spectacle and speak with a man on site.

    “Hi. I’m Larry.” He smiles at me. I can tell Larry is a man who is used to calming disgruntled neighbors. He gives my hand a firm shake as cars drive by in the evening light and waits to see my mood.

    “I’m Shawna," I look in his eye and nod my head towards the workers, "I’m a writer. Can I take few pictures of your work?”

    “Sure,” says Larry. “We’re trying to hold the water main break. Homes are getting flooded. It’s these cast iron pipes. This entire street is full of them. They’re old.” I snap a few photos of the machines and the workers. Watching as the lights unfold on the camera.

    “Yep, Larry,” I say, “they sure are. A few years back one of these pipes burst about 200’ up the street and flooded my home. It was a complete disaster for my family. The mold from the flood made me ill – I developed asthma. It was awful. You would think the city would replace all these pipes considering the number of times this has happened.”

    Larry looked at me and raised his eyebrows, “I remember when your house flooded. You weren’t in town at the time, right? So there was no one who called it in early enough.”

    “That’s right,” I stare at the lights. “We were on vacation when it happened and it cost us about $16,000 in damages. The city refused to help us with the damages because they said they weren’t aware of an existing pipe condition. We felt as if the city had abandoned us.”

    Nodding wisely, Larry said, “I know. It used to be different. It’s sad really. Things are changing. The world is changing. It used to be different everywhere. Used to be we took care of one another, but it’s all different now.”
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