Communities plan switch to Lake Michigan water

Six Lake County communities are working to transition from local groundwater to Lake Michigan water.

Lake Villa, Lindenhurst, Volo, Wauconda and unincorporated Lake County including Grandwood Park and Fox Lake Hills, all part of the North-West Lake County Lake Michigan Water Planning Group, plan to join the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency.

These communities now use water from deep wells, which are drying up, according to Lake County Public Works officials. Overpumping the wells is decreasing water quality.

Steve Carlson, Lake County board member from District 7, said that at first he was reluctant to support the project because the wells could last for some time, but he became convinced after noticing climate change.

“People will be upset, but the change is necessary,” Carlson said. District 7 includes Gurnee, Grandwood Park and portions of Third Lake.

A 22-mile water piping extension will bring treated Lake Michigan water from the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency to the newly joined communities. The project will cost $40 million.

Lake Villa Mayor Frank Loffredo said after the communities considered all options, from digging more wells to building their own water treatment plants, they settled on the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency because it was the most cost-effective and expedient plan.

Now the villages are in the financing phase of the project. For the communities involved, the construction cost will come from special service area bonds funded by property taxes, Loffredo said.

The share each community will pay for the project is based on population size, Loffredo said. The average household will pay $40 more a month for water. That number includes any additional property tax.

“Costs will be phased in over a number of years. It won’t hit everyone all at once,” he said.

Richard Hill, chairman of the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency and mayor of Round Lake Beach, said the new agency members still are being finalized and that the individual communities would pay for the main line to the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency as well as connecting their water towers to the main line.

“Fresh water will continue to be a scarcer commodity and this will provide those communities with water from one of the top quality water plants in the world,” Hill said.

Loffredo said Antioch and Fox Lake dropped out of the project because the agency did not have the capacity for them. Hill said Antioch may have options with other agencies in Waukegan and that the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency may reevaluate their capacity after the project is completed.

Right now, each community treats its own water from deep wells. As the deep wells run out, radium concentration gets higher, and the water needs to be treated before it goes into the pipe.

Loffredo said, “In a do-nothing scenario, if we continue as we are, the costs of treating radium and creating additional deep wells is substantially greater than if we do this [Lake Michigan water] project right now.”

“The water from CLCJAWA will be the highest quality water you can receive from state-of-the-art technology,” Loffredo said. “If all deadlines are met, Lake Michigan water will be coming out of the faucet by 2017.”

The Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency includes the communities of Grayslake, Gurnee, Lake Bluff, Libertyville, Mundelein, Round Lake, Round Lake Beach and unincorporated parts of Lake County. Hill said the project will not cost anything to those communities.

“For many years, CLCJAWA was not admitting new customers,” he said. “With new technology changes such as toilets and shower heads that use less water, we were able to lower our projections for water use and realized we had the resources to add new members.”

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