New program offers free rain barrels…

More than 350 rain barrels have been distributed to nearly 200 Oak Park households so far this year as part of a new partnership between the Village and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago. Eligible households can apply online to receive up to four barrels per residence.

Some estimates put the amount of impervious surface in Cook County atmore than 40 percent. Rain barrels are a cornerstone of the MWRD’s regional stormwater mitigation strategy, as they can divert many hundreds of gallons of rainwater that would otherwise end up in the sewer system. Barrels allow backyard gardeners and eco-conscious homeowners to capture and store the fresh, abundant rainwater that falls on Oak Park each year. The barrels are made of recycled material and provided free of charge to qualifying households.

To be eligible, households must currently have their gutter downspouts connected to the municipal sewer system. Disconnecting the downspouts is the first step toward qualifying for free rain barrels. Each rain barrel distributed will display a specially-designed label that summarizes the environmental benefits of using rain barrels.

Even if you don’t qualify for free rain barrels under this program, Village officials urge homeowners to consider installing them to reduce basement backups and sewer overflow. For more information on the program, call 708.358.5700 or email publicworks@oak-park.us.

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