As an expected change in Lake Michigan water suppliers approaches for Homewood and Flossmoor, the villages are preparing to jointly fund a study of corrosion in the current water transmission lines in both towns.
Flossmoor village board members Monday approved an intergovernmental agreement with Homewood that gives the OK to an extensive study of corrosion in the existing supply system in the two communities. Homewood officials are expected to take action on the IGA at their July 28 village board meeting.
The total cost of the corrosion study comes to $366, 285, with Homewood paying up to $193,802 and Flossmoor paying up to $172,483. According to the IGA, that comes to 52.9% of the costs from Homewood and 47.1% from Flossmoor.
Flossmoor board members unanimously approved the intergovernmental agreement.
The study will be conducted by Burns & McDonnell, Homewood’s consulting engineer for the water project. Homewood will be the lead agency in the corrosion study project and will be responsible for paying the engineering firm, with Flossmoor responsible for reimbursing Homewood.
Both towns are seeking to change their Lake Michigan water supplier from Harvey to Chicago Heights. Flossmoor Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said at Monday’s meeting that the current contract with Harvey expires in 2022.
Under the current system, Homewood and Flossmoor buy lake water from Harvey, which gets it from Chicago. Flossmoor village officials have said they’d like to change water suppliers because of yearly rate increases that continue to push up prices. Switching to Chicago Heights is seen as a way to have more control over water prices in the future.
Water coming through Chicago Heights is taken from Lake Michigan in Hammond, Indiana, and pumped west through Lansing. Both Homewood and Flossmoor share borders with Chicago Heights. Flossmoor officials have speculated that the village could directly tap onto the Chicago Heights water supply if a line is run down Vollmer Road. However, Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke told the H-F Chronicle Monday that it now appears it would be more economical to tap onto Homewood’s water line from Chicago Heights.
In any case, time is of the essence as the two towns get ready for a change of suppliers of one of the most crucial commodities that municipalities provide to their residents.
The corrosion study will take six months to complete. After that, results of the study must be reviewed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which must approve a change in water suppliers. Brunke said it could take as long as a year to construct the new water lines connecting Chicago Heights, Homewood and Flossmoor.
“We will be working on a tight timetable,” he said.
During the corrosion study, sections of existing water delivery pipes will be removed – or, as the IGA states, “harvested” – and taken to skids located at the Homewood and Flossmoor public works buildings and a Chicago Heights pumping station. The pipe sections on the skids will be hooked up to the existing water supply and tests will be conducted that indicate the level of contamination, if any, in the pipes. Burns & McDonnell will oversee the testing, which will be conducted by public works personnel in the three municipalities. There will be a weekly review of test results with the engineering firm making recommendations as needed.
Brunke said Burns & McDowell, working on behalf of Homewood, has already submitted plans for the corrosion study to the IEPA. That way, the corrosion study can begin as soon as the state agency gives the go-ahead. Burns & McDowell will be in communication with the IEPA while the study is being conducted. When the study is completed, results will be analyzed by Abigail Cantor, who is recognized as a national expert in the field of internal corrosion in water distribution.
At Monday’s meeting, Flossmoor officials agreed that it was necessary to perform the corrosion study and that IEPA would not approve a change in suppliers without such testing.
Homewood approached Flossmoor and asked if the village wanted to be partners in the corrosion study. Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun said the joint study is beneficial to the village. It also makes sense because the water systems in both towns are already connected.
Braun said it would cost about $250,000 for Flossmoor to conduct its own corrosion study.
“So we are saving $75,000,” he said.
Braun also responded to a village resident who suggested on social media that Flossmoor could save the entire cost of the study by forgoing the testing completely and just relying on corrosion data from Homewood.
In that case, there would be no guarantee that the IEPA would approve the change in suppliers and Flossmoor might be left without a water contract, Braun said.
“That would be a very risky maneuver,” he said.