Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld cut the grand opening ribbon to a new water supply facility in Thornton on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Within two weeks, the village will be receiving all of its water supply from Hammond through Chicago Heights after 40 years of buying water from Chicago through Harvey. It will continue to be water from Lake Michigan, but at a cheaper price.
The project was helmed by public works director John Schaefer and Village Manager Napoleon Haney. The engineering firm Burns & McDonnell designed and oversaw the construction of new water infrastructure for the project.
The mayor said there will be “no discernable” difference between this Lake Michigan water and the Lake Michigan water that was previously in Homewood. He said part of the project included Burns & McDonnell engineers taste testing the water.
“This is the culmination of a great project – the largest public works project that Homewood has ever undertaken,” Hofeld said. “It’s a true success. It’s a delight.”
Hofeld said that as of Tuesday, 25% of Homewood’s water supply still came from Chicago. Within the next two weeks, all of Homewood’s water will be coming from Hammond, he said.
“We’re melding it in slowly,” Hofeld said.
Hofeld said that Chicago unpredictably raised prices “at their whim,” but now with a new source of water, the village has “a reliable source of water at a fixed contract rate for 25 years.”
“We did it in a progressive design build manner, which means that as the engineer, we engineered and actually built it at the same time. So, it was able to save them some time and some money, too,” said Patrick Clifford, the water and global practice manager at Burns & McDonnell.
Clifford said the construction of the project took about two years, but if it had been done in the “traditional way,” it probably would’ve taken about four years to build.
“It was a super exciting project for Burns & McDonnell because it was our first project with the Village of Homewood,” Clifford said, adding that the project being finished felt “great,” like taking “a deep breath.”
“You may not see a drop in your utility bill, but you won’t see those huge increases like we used to receive in Chicago and Harvey,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer said that Olympia Fields is considering getting its water from Homewood.
“We can now pump close to 11 million gallons a day if needed. There’s potential to supply other communities through this pump station,” Schaefer said.