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Yorkville, Oswego, Montgomery to examine water systems ahead of switch to Lake Michigan supply

When the city of Flint, Michigan changed its water source in 2014 from Lake Huron to the Flint River, residents complained about the taste, smell and appearance of the water they poured from the tap.

The change in the chemical properties of the water supply resulted in lead from corroded pipes leaching into the water, creating a public health crisis and political scandal that became national news.

The supply switch had been made as a cost-saving measure for the financially strapped city and no effort had been made to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water, exposing 100,000 people to elevated levels of lead in their drinking water.

As Oswego, Montgomery and Yorkville prepare to source their water from Lake Michigan, plans are in motion to prevent a scenario like that which played out in Flint.

Yorkville City Administrator Bart Olson said the cities will be undertaking a two-year corrosion study of their water distribution systems, as mandated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The study is just one of many items on the checklist for completion before the three municipalities can hook up to the DuPage Water Commission system, which is expected to take place by 2030.

“It’s a very large, complex project,” Olson said with a certain degree of understatement.

Some of those checklist items have been completed, most notably passage and the governor’s signature on a piece of legislation allowing the communities to become part of the DuPage system.

Yet to be secured is a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources enabling the cities to access Lake Michigan water.

Olson said the IDNR will be conducting a review of the cities’ plans in order to ensure that the precious lake water is to be used responsibly.

The massive engineering project will involve construction of a pipeline from Naperville to Oswego, through Montgomery and on to Yorkville.

The capital cost of the project for Yorkville alone is estimated at $94 million.

Yorkville aldermen have already approved what is expected to be only the first of several phased-in water rate increases.

Currently, the typical Yorkville household pays $47 a month for water. By 2030, that monthly bill is expected to be about $100.

After months of investigation and deliberation, all three municipalities decided late last year to connect with the DuPage system, rather than tapping into the Fox River or to use other sources to bring Lake Michigan water to their communities.

The new water source is needed because the aquifer supplying the wells now used by the three communities is being depleted at a rapid pace.

The Illinois State Water Survey reports that without taking action, the three communities would be at “severe risk” of meeting water demand by 2050.

Gov. JB Pritzker on May 6 signed the bill that allows the three communities to connect with the DuPage system.

Sponsored by State Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, the legislation provides three municipalities with two representatives on the DuPage Water Commission board, which currently consists of 13 members.

One representative would be appointed by the DuPage County Board chairman, the other by a majority vote of the mayors of the three municipalities.

There is not only the pipeline itself, but construction of water storage tanks.

The communities will need to comply with a city of Chicago requirement to have enough storage capacity for a two-day supply of water, in case of supply disruptions.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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