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Local News

Southland Water Agency invites Joliet to team up

Group seeks to help stabilize Lake Michigan water costs

Water flows from a fire hydrant Thursday, July 12, 2018, along Hammes Avenue in Joliet, Ill.
Water flows from a fire hydrant Thursday, July 12, 2018, along Hammes Avenue in Joliet, Ill.

A newly formed agency on Tuesday invited Joliet to join its quest to develop a system that would stabilize water rates for towns dependent on Lake Michigan water.

The Southland Water Agency, in the making three years ago but established only two weeks ago, made a presentation to the Environmental Commission that is studying alternative sources of Joliet water to replace the city’s underground wells.

The agency is not distributing water yet. But it is negotiating a potential agreement with the city of Hammond for right-of-way to draw water from Lake Michigan to distribute to member communities, Aaron Fundich, engineer for the Southland Water Agency, said.

“It would be a completely independent system,” said Fundich, who also is executive vice president with Frankfort-based Robinson Engineering. “It would be a completely new system.”

Fundich said the goal of the agency is to create a system that would be independent from the city of Chicago and its escalating water rates. Those rates have tripled since 2006, he said.

“The goal would be to assure rate stability over a long period of time,” Fundich said, laying out cost projections to the year 2090 that would be below projected rates the agency projects from the city of Chicago.

Fundich acknowledged certain risks with joining the agency, including that it has only three members now. Those charter members are South Holland, East Hazel Crest and Thornton. However, he said
20 other south suburbs are potential members.

The Joliet Environmental Commission also is looking at two other potential sources of Lake Michigan water: the city of Chicago and the DuPage Water Commission. The panel also is examining the potential of the city building its own system and drawing water from either the Kankakee or Illinois rivers.

Aqua Illinois, a private company that draws and treats Kankakee River water for the city of Kankakee, will make a presentation to the commission next month.

Also presenting to the commission Tuesday was Jen Thornburg, senior manager of operations for Illinois American Water, who said the company could be a business partner with Joliet in developing facilities.

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