The Joliet City Council had a special joint meeting on Tuesday with the city’s Environmental Commission to discuss the ongoing effort to find an alternative water source.
The bulk of the meeting consisted of the council and commission members breaking into groups to discuss how to determine which option to go with now that the list has been whittled down to five.
Joliet’s Director of Public Utilities Allison Swisher told the council the commission had completed the first phase of the process, which included evaluating 14 water source options. Last December, members of the commission heard the alternative water source study team’s detailed presentation on each option.
The commission then selected the Kankakee River, the Illinois River and three different options for Lake Michigan water, mostly based on water quality and quantity, for further analysis in the second phase of the process.
“The main goal of the second phase of the study is to take a deeper dive into those five alternatives,” Swisher told the council.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk asked if the group had any idea about the costs of each option. Swisher said they were working on getting those numbers as Phase II progressed.
Joliet plans to have a decision by the end of this year.
Members of the project team helped guide the group discussions with council and commission members. They stressed that control of the water source, along with the cost, would probably be the most important factor to weigh in the city’s decision.
City Council members asked questions about what Joliet could do if it joined an existing water agency along with other Chicago-area municipalities to pull water from Lake Michigan. They were concerned with how much say Joliet would have in decision making and if it could potentially sell its water to other municipalities.
Ultimately though, some members, like Pat Mudron, said residents weren’t as concerned about where the water was coming from as they were about how much more it might cost.
“They want to know what’s going on their bill,” Mudron said.
The experts explained to the council members that costs to the city would depend on the timeline for the project and the infrastructure the city might need to build. They said Joliet was well-equipped to meet the cost.
Experts from the engineering consulting firm, Crawford, Murphy and Tilly, told the commission in December the deep sandstone aquifer Joliet uses as its primary source of water should be able to meet the city’s demands through 2030.