JOHNSBURG – When Sue Harder first moved to Lake in the Hills from Chicago about a year and a half ago, she was happy about her new home.
What she wasn’t particularly thrilled about was her tap water.
“I’m used to (Chicago) water,” said Harder, adding that city water in Chicago comes from Lake Michigan, and is soft, something not commonly found in McHenry County water sources. “My son had moved out several months before I did, and he was having a new water softener put in.”
Her son’s softener was installed by Huemann Water Conditioning of Johnsburg. And soon, Harder was a steadfast customer of the generations-old company, too.
“The guys were just so pleasant and they were so accommodating,” she said, adding that she not only bought a new softener, but takes regular salt deliveries from Huemann, as well.
Huemann Water Conditioning is an offshoot of a family business that’s been serving Johnsburg and a growing radius around it since 1902. Huemann Water Conditioning President Joseph J. Huemann is the fourth generation in the water business, which started with the Jos. H. Huemann and Sons well drilling company.
That company still exists, and now is run by Joe Huemann’s cousins, Jeff Huemann and Jeni Hopp.
Joseph J. Huemann’s father, Tom Huemann, split from the well drilling company which at that time was run by Tom’s father, Joseph G. Huemann, in the ’60s.
“I am second generation in the water treatment business, fourth generation in the water business and a first-generation plumber,” said Joseph J. Huemann, who started working with his dad when he was a boy.
“When I was 13, Dad said ‘Take the truck and go deliver salt in McHenry,’” Joe Huemann recalled. “I said ‘Dad, I don’t have a license.’ He said ‘Well, someone’s got to do it.’ Things were different then.”
Joe Huemann also recalls that when he was 16, Huemann Water Conditioning employed three people. It employs 18 today, and between them, they visit roughly 100 homes in McHenry and Lake counties daily, he said. They sell, install and service water softeners and reverse-osmosis drinking water systems. They also sell and deliver softener salt.
The company maintains roughly 30,000 accounts, up from about 10,000 in 1995.
The growth has been marked not only by population increases, but also by significantly greater percentages of residential use of water treatment systems.
“In the ’60s, one out of 50 homeowners did something (about treating their water),” said Huemann, 53. “Nowadays, 90 percent of people do something to make their water better.”
While Huemann does commercial work, most customers are homeowners who prefer soft water for bathing, drinking and laundering. In addition, he said, “People are generally more concerned about their drinking water.”
Huemann recommended that anyone anxious about possible unhealthy levels of naturally occurring or manmade elements in their water have a lab analysis done before calling Huemann, which will provide a free treatment system consultation. Among naturally occurring elements in McHenry County are barium and radium (generally problematic only for deep wells of 1,000 feet or more), and arsenic.
Huemann offers conditioning systems ranging in price from about $500 to $3,000, and reverse-osmosis systems that provide high-quality filtered drinking water.
Will a fifth generation take over? That chapter remains unwritten.
“My children and my sister’s kids all have worked here,” Huemann said. “They’re all in their 20s, and are now seeing what the world offers.”
* * * Huemann Water Conditioning:
Where: 3607 Chapel Hill Road, Johnsburg
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
Information: Call 815-385-3093 or visit www.huemannwater.com