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Sewer Cache Lands Owner In The Crapper

Storm in a geocache: The Northbrook stormwater drain.

Placing a cache deep inside a stormwater drain has landed an Illinois player in hot water – more than two years later.

Officials in the Cook County village of Northbrook, 47km from Chicago, complained to Geocaching.com last week about the dangerous hide, located 800 metres into a sewer system.

Cache owner thegoonies21 has subsequently had the small lock’n’lock box confiscated and the listing for GC2D6FZ Tunnelin’ archived by a local reviewer. GC2D6FZ was the first and only hide placed by the Illinois resident, who signed his first logsheet in July 2008. Since then, he has found only 20 more caches.

In evidence: Public works director Kelly Hamil shows the offending container to the Northbrook Village Board.

His Tunnelin’ hide was placed on August 10, 2010 with a 5/5 D/T rating and repeat warnings not to attempt alone or without a torch – as well as advice on what to do in an emergency.

It had been logged 130 times, earning 48 Favourite points and a prize from the Geocachers of Northeastern Illinois (GONIL) organisation for being its Cache Of The Month in April 2011.

Until last Monday, that is … That evening, at a meeting of the Northbrook Village Board, public works and engineering director Kelly Hamill outed the hide, having been alerted to it by the father of a young geocacher.

The parent was seeking permission to enter the drain, believing that the board was involved with the cache placement. However, the village did not give any such approval, Hamill was quoted as saying in the Northbrook Star newspaper.

The cache also contravened GC.com rules forbidding placements on private land without the owner’s consent. “There is no intention for the property to be used in this manner, but someone actually transversed about a half a mile into the storm sewer to place this box,” he added, holding up the roughly four-by-five inch container for the board. “People could get stuck or fall in the sewer and we might not be able to get aid to them in a timely fashion.”

Off-limits: Signs warn against entering Northbrook’s stormwater system.

Village communications manager Cheryl Fayne-dePersio said she doubted that cellphones would even work in the sewer system, which is buried about a metre underground. “What if there was a sudden rush of water? What if the person’s flashlight went out, or it was dropped and the person couldn’t get to it? He or she would be in total darkness,” she asked.

“Also, there could be gases formed in the sewer effecting the quality of the air. This could be extremely dangerous.”

Hamill reported that he had sent a member of a sewer crew to retrieve the box, which contained a whistle and a gold medal. It was to be thrown away. He also contacted GC.com to discuss the village’s concerns and advise that anyone trying to enter the sewer would be trespassing.

Finders were using outfall pipes to access the stormwater system, Hamil said, “rather than popping manhole lids to get in there”. However, the Public Works department had since secured all entrances to the drain and started reviewing other, potentially risky, geocaching sites. 

“It is an interesting pastime and hobby, and we’re not [condeming] the hobby of it. But putting them in places which could jeopardise people’s health and safety is a concern of ours.”

Despite most board members having never heard of the game, they expressed surprise that anyone would want to hide a cache in a sewer. “It’s a liability,” village manager Richard Nahrstadt said. “As if the police don’t have enough to do already …”

*Where do you stand on this issue? Should Tunnelin’ have been archived? Or are you among those hoping for V2.0 to be published? Tell us below …

9 comments

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  1. kim

    I live in the area and this cache has been quite the talk of the entire Chicago caching community. Yesterday I happened to be parked in the Northbrook fire dept. parking lot. My license plate is GEOCACH. 2 firemen walked out, saw my plate and started talking about the tunnel cache and geocaching. I just hope Northbrook doesn’t start going around the whole town and make us take down other geocaches.

  2. Lib Mendonca

    The cache is two years old, with over a hundred finders and no mishaps, but I have concerns about this type of hide as well – GOOGLE “confined spaces”. That hide had the potential to develop a number of hazards, some of which would not be at all obvious to the cacher standing at the outfall pipe.

    There’s a number of caches out there that ‘challenge’ cachers with their locations, but does someone need to die before reconsider what’s a ‘challenging’ location and what’s blatantly dangerous?

    No matter, the cache was place without permission, a blatant violation of the guidelines. No community is going to allow people to play a game in a potentially hazardous location based on the lame ‘disclaimer’ found on the cache page (Cache seekers assume all risks involved in seeking a cache.)

    Any cache placed in a potentially dangerous location should have to provide explicit permission granted by the landowner/community, period.

    Bluelamb03

    1. thebitchycacher

      over 100 finds, and no one realized they were trespassing?!! proof positive some people will find any piece of crap out there

  3. BAT

    I am not saying that this is the best location for a cache considering that it is in fact a confined space (although you might find my name in the logbook 😉 ), but since when is a city right of way considered private property? I disagree that this cache violated the GC.com guidelines that is was placed on private property for it was not. If that is the case, then every LPS cache out there in a parking lot without the owner’s permission should be archived for those truly are in violation. RIP Tunnelin… you had a fun run!

  4. Nighthawk700

    The “No Tresspassing” sign seems pretty clear. Was there another way in that didn’t involve that entrance? I’ve done several tunnel type caches, and have one of my own, but none of them have no trespassing signs.

  5. ADV

    Might have been helpful to explain to the NZ readers that the term ‘sewer’ in the US also includes a stormwater system, which it is, but hey, gotta have a catchy title 😉

    Just checked and I see the NZ version is now archived. Worst danger I would think would be the danger of odourless gas buildup, carbon monoxide etc. I note an interesting log from the NZ cache around that;
    “we noticed workman lifting the cover at GZ and a guy with breathing gear on about to enter”.

    My own log of this one included;
    “One I am unlikely to forgot in a hurry, unfortunate really as I would rather forget it as quick as possible. And certainly not one I would be talking about when I explain why I enjoy geocaching”

  6. GSV

    Hmm, I would have thought the ‘No Trespassing’ sign at the entrance, and without permission, a showstopper.

    The fact that it’s a stormwater drain is another matter. Sewer pipes can have gas buildups, stormwater pipes can have water buildups. Both may be defined as ‘Confined Space’ areas by the local council but I’d expect any specific dangers to be quite different.

  7. professorbenson

    Sounds too extreme, even for me. There’s a nuclear power plant close to me and I don’t place hides anywhere near that thing.

  8. Lazarus

    Quite the public Muggling!

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