Cicero lawsuit accuses BNSF of altering property to force water runoff into neighborhoods
The Town of Cicero this week filed a lawsuit against the BNSF Railway Company alleging that the company intentionally elevated its land surface by several feet and covered the soft ground with pavement to force the run-off of rainwater from its property onto surrounding Town of Cicero neighborhoods.
Like many suburban communities in the South and West suburbs, and because of increased rainfall over the past several decades, Cicero has experienced flooding. The massive size of BNSF land, estimated to be 250 acres or 7 percent of the Town’s entire land mass, has raised concerns that the water run-off is a contributing factor in aggravating the rainwater floods.
The lawsuit specifically accuses BNSF of elevating and paving the property to force the water to runoff onto neighboring streets and homes and asks the State of Illinois Court to order BNSF to construct appropriate detention ponds or other drainage system apparatuses sufficient to address and retain stormwater runoff, conduct professional studies to confirm it has remediated the threat of rainwater run-off, and ensure that rainwater does not endanger Cicero’s homeowners.
The lawsuit, filed by Michael Del Galdo Law Group LLC on behalf of Cicero Town President Larry Dominick and the Town of Cicero Board, describes the problems caused by BNSF in detail.
“The Subject Property was previously largely soil or aggregate, and in an unraised condition – but has now been paved and filled to an increased elevation of approximately 2-3 feet, as evidenced by several layers of fill when digging on site has occurred and by only seeing the tops of previously existing fire hydrants on site,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Increasing the elevation of a site increases the flow and amount of stormwater runoff from a property. Additionally, paving over surfaces leads to a larger amount of runoff as those surfaces are impermeable and unable to absorb runoff in the manner and at the rate of a soil or aggregate surface.”
Town President Larry Dominick said the lawsuit was unavoidable mainly because BNSF, which holds the largest parcel of land in the community, has never attempted to discuss the issue with the Town. Dominick said that in addition to the excess rainwater runoff onto Cicero’s streets and already burdened water disbursement system, there is also the potential that hazardous wastes from the BNSF railway property would also mix with the water and pollute the community.
“This is unacceptable,” President Dominick said. “Their solution to increasing rainwater is to push it off on others without as much as expressing any concerns for the well-being of the community.
BNSF operates one of the largest railroad networks in North America, with 32,500 miles of rail across the western two-thirds of the United States. BNSF owns and operates an intermodal rail and maintenance yard at 5601 W. 26th Street in Cicero, Illinois, which bisects the Town and runs east-west in the area south of 26th Street.
A hearing date on the lawsuit has been set for Nov. 10, 2021 at 9:30 AM in District 1.
Click here to read the lawsuit in PDF format.
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