The Village of Flossmoor is moving into the negotiations stage of an effort to change its water supply from Chicago to Hammond, Ind.
The Flossmoor Village Board voted 5-0 at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 19, to authorize the village attorney to begin contract negotiations with the village of Homewood to acquire water from Hammond by way of Chicago Heights. Trustee Joni Bradley-Scott was absent.
Flossmoor and Homewood on June 1 entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to engage in a collaborative effort related to the possible change, according to a report submitted by Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke. The purpose of the effort is to change the village’s water supply, which currently comes from Chicago through Harvey, when Flossmoor’s agreement with Harvey comes to an end in December 2022.
In July, Homewood trustees approved an ordinance spelling out the agreement between Homewood and Chicago Heights for Lake Michigan water. Hammond, Indiana, draws the water and sells it to Chicago Heights. Hammond water rates, set by ordinance, will be cheaper for Homewood than Chicago’s rate.
Homewood currently obtains lake water from Chicago via Harvey, but concerns about Harvey's ability to maintain its system and reliably deliver water caused Homewood village officials to seek another source.
Mayor Paul Braun noted Flossmoor did not want to start contract negotiations until the board felt comfortable with its options.
“That has been achieved at this point,” he said.
Flossmoor had been studying two connection options for the possible new water source: a direct one through Chicago Heights or Chicago Heights’ supply through Homewood. Officials said they reviewed capacity, water quality, reliability and supply rates with the help of the consulting firm Strand Associates.
Strand’s report, submitted Oct. 15, noted it visited the Hammond Water Treatment Plant, discussed the system with its staff and reviewed historical water usage in Flossmoor along with the Hammond design capacity. Strand also visited the Chicago Heights pumping station in Lansing, had discussions with its staff and reviewed design capacity.
Following its investigation, Strand wrote it “believes that ample capacity exists at both Hammond Water Treatment Plant and the Lansing Pumping Station to support the additional water demand created by the addition of Homewood and [Flossmoor].”
Brunke noted in his report that based on the “favorable” conclusion, Flossmoor is ready to move on to the next steps. He said with Hammond-Chicago Heights a viable option, it becomes a financial decision. He called a term sheet Flossmoor received in April from Homewood along with potential system improvements the village might need to make by remaining with Homewood “more favorable” than expected capital and distribution systems improvements that would come with a direct connection to Chicago Heights.
Officials also noted at the meeting that while Hammond and Chicago differ in terms of how they handle chlorination and corrosion prohibitor chemicals, both use common techniques that were not seen as cause for concern.
In July, Flossmoor board members approved an intergovernmental agreement with Homewood to share in an extensive study of corrosion in the existing supply system in the two communities. Flossmoor is paying $172,483, or 47.1 percent of the cost, for the study.
Pilot tests are planned to monitor water from the new source running through pipes for lead and copper levels.
Any change in the taste also is likely to be indistinguishable by most customers, officials noted.
“This has been a long journey for us, and we’re getting to the end,” Trustee James Mitros said. “I would say, ‘Good job, everyone.’”
Flossmoor completed a multi-year program in 2018, financed by a voter-approved bond issue, to replace water mains in the worst condition. After serious leaks were discovered at the concrete Vollmer Road reservoir in 2016, those were also repaired.
Prior to 2018, only about 66 percent of Lake Michigan water that was purchased made it into homes and businesses. With the infrastructure improvements, that number went up to 83 percent.
This year Flossmoor worked to complete the installation of updated water meters in the remainder of homes in the village.