A public forum on Joliet’s water choices produced mixed opinions on what the city should do next, but showed no apparent support for using the Illinois River.
Joliet is headed toward a Jan. 7 decision on where it should go in the future for water, with staff recommending against the Kankakee River and the public showing concerns about the Illinois River.
That would seem to leave Lake Michigan as the only alternative among the options being considered, except some at the forum called on the city to take another look at its options.
“I would urge you to let the [City] Council know you support delaying a choice on a new water source,” Kathy Nassios said to about 150 people gathered for the forum at Cantigny Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 367. “It’s a shame we have not had an opportunity to have more say in this matter.”
Nassios was one of two speakers who called on the city to reconsider the Kankakee River.
Five of the 10 speakers favored Lake Michigan.
No one voiced support for the Illinois River, although several concerns about the river, especially a plan to pull water from a location near the Dresden Generating Station nuclear plant, were mentioned in questions submitted to a panel of engineers at the forum.
“No water is pure,” said Theresa O’Grady, project manager for the engineering consultant team that has been working with Joliet since mid-2018 to find a new water source.
O’Grady told the forum, however, that Illinois River water appears “to be treatable to the same finished water quality as the other water options.”
Jim Mladic expressed support for Lake Michigan water based on his experience as a former Orland Park resident when that village connected to the lake.
“It was a very good thing,” Mladic said. “We got rid of the water softener. We drank water out of the tap.”
Mike Homberg said Joliet should not turn to the city of Chicago as a supplier of Lake Michigan water.
“Chicago cannot finance itself,” Homberg said, expressing concern that Chicago’s financial troubles would lead to Joliet paying high prices for water.
The average Joliet monthly water bill, now about $31, is expected to go up $42 if the city builds a pipeline to the Illinois River at the Dresden Pool, and would rise about $68 to pay for a pipeline to Lake Michigan in Hammond, Indiana, according to a fact sheet handed out at the forum.
Five other options – different ways to get water from the Illinois River, Kankakee River and Lake Michigan – fell somewhere in between in price.
Not on the fact sheet was Lake Michigan water supplied by the DuPage Water Commission, which the city removed as an option this week at the insistence of officials with the commission.
Damon Zdunich questioned the costs being calculated, pointing to Joliet plans in 2000 to go to the Kankakee River for water at a cost of $70 million. Estimated construction costs for the various options now range from $309 million to the Kankakee River to about $1 billion for a Joliet-built pipeline to Lake Michigan.
Zdunich called for a system that would combine the deep wells that the city now uses with Kankakee River water and reservoirs.
“Most importantly, this plan would keep water bills low for the residents of Joliet,” he said.
The city plans to keep at least some of its deep wells active for backup supplies but is looking for a new water source in light of an Illinois State Water Survey projection that the aquifer Joliet uses will not meet peak demand by 2030.