IL Water Supplier Project Nears Completion
A critical infrastructure project in the Village of Homewood, Illinois, which involved water line installation to transition water suppliers for the area, is reportedly nearing completion. The $11.72 million project is reportedly the largest public works project Homewood has undertaken.
Currently, all major construction has been completed, but Public Works Director John Schaefer told the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle that one of the key pieces of equipment left to install, a pump station generator, as been delayed due to supply chain problems.
“Lead times have been crazy. We’ve been waiting a long time for that,” he said, adding he expects it to be in place this month.
First announced in 2020, officials explained that it was changing its water supplier to ensure access to a safe, good quality water supply, but at a better rate and with more rate certainty for the future. The village’s current supplier, the City of Harvey, has reportedly increased rates over a seven-year period from 2012 to 2020.
The new provider, Hammond, Indiana, via the City of Chicago Heights, will reportedly sell Homewood at a lower rate than what it is currently paying, in addition to locked-in rate increases for the next 25 years. Reports noted that if the contract had been extended, Homewood would pay up to $5.16 per 1,000 gallons. Instead, the village will pay Chicago Heights $4.05 per 1,000 gallons, with $2.05 of that amount going to Hammond.
In January of last year, Homewood selected Burns & McDonnell, an employee-owned engineering, construction and architecture firm, to lead the design-build water project. The design and construction included 2.5 miles of a 30-inch transmission main and booster pump station.
“I want to commend Burns & McDonnell as they have continued to work with us to reduce project costs throughout our planning stages of this progressive design-build water project,” Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld said at the time. “By partnering with Burns & McDonnell, we are able to achieve the balance of fiscal responsibility and safety for our residents for years to come.”
Additionally, Burns & McDonnell also performed a corrosion control study to reduce the potential for corrosion within water service lines to maintain clean water standards for the community, as required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
The project will be paid for with cash reserves that the village has saved since paying off the last water bond in 2005, Finance Director Dennis Bubenik said. One cost-cutting measure was to switch from iron piping to plastic piping, also preventing corrosion and allowing easier installation.
Another challenge was the delivery of the piping itself, which was originally supposed to be delivered in stages as the installation continued. However, the provider said the cost would increase by $365,000, and the village had the piping delivered all at once and stored it until it was needed.
The pipe was installed using a “jack and bore” method to limit disturbances in the environment. This included boring horizontally between two vertical pits in order to avoid disturbing the surface between them.
Water line installation was finished in September, and the pump house was placed in October after being constructed offsite. The booster pump station includes three booster pumps and appurtenances needed for a complete and operational system.
Project Update, What’s Next
Finishing touches on the system are reportedly pending, but Homewood Public Works has began testing the water that will be coming to the residents once the system is active. Six sets of pipe taken from residential service lines were installed at a Lansing pump station owned by Chicago Heights to run tests.
According to reports, while the source of the drinking water will be the same from Lake Michigan, the two cities do use a different water treatment process. Chicago uses a blended polyphosphate additive, while Hammond uses zinc orthophosphate.
“What it does is basically put a coating inside the pipe to prevent any lead from lead service lines from leeching out into the water,” Schaefer said.
While the chemical composition is almost the same, extensive testing is required by the IEPA out of an abundance of caution.
“IEPA has been working very well with us,” he said. “We both want to make sure this is going to be high quality water. There will be no issues with health.”
Homewood will gradually phase-in the new system, allowing for testing to continue regarding water quality. The switch is anticipated to take place in July or August, beginning with blending 25% of Hammond/Chicago Heights water with the current supply from Chicago/Harvey.
Afterwards, incremental adjustments will go to 50%, then 75% and eventually 100%. These adjustments will each take at least two weeks for testing to be conducted. Water will reportedly be taken from various points in the system, including residential sources and normal sampling sites.
“We’ve done this testing. We know what the results should be,” he said. “We’ll make sure we get those results when it gets into the distribution system.”
This gradual switch will not begin until the IEPA signs off on the project and provides Homewood with an operation permit.
“They look at our data. We have to get approval before we can turn that valve on,” Schaefer said. “The bottom line is we are not going to jeopardize the water quality and the residents of the community just to make a deadline. We will make sure the water just as good as it is now if not better.
“There’s no compromise. The water will be safe.”