Some waterless for 3 days
McHENRY – Without any running water for three days in her McHenry Shores house, Elizabeth Pozniak had to check into a hotel so she could take a shower.
“We can’t take showers with bottled water,” Pozniak said.
A water main break in the McHenry Shores Water Co. system last week was repaired over the span of three days. At one point, water service was disrupted for 160 customers.
During the service outage that occurred Tuesday morning and wasn’t repaired until Thursday afternoon, some people bought jugs of water to wash dishes and cook. Some took water from the river to flush toilets.
The disruption led to residents being angry at the McHenry Shores Water Co. owner T.P. Mathews. Some were upset with the efforts to fix the problem, some with the lack of communication from the company, and others even vented about the poor water quality.
“The water company has made zero effort to contact us,” Pozniak said.
Pozniak was upset that the water company’s crews did not work throughout the night trying to fix the problem. City crews even stepped in to offer technical assistance in trying to find the water main break. The city spent 80 man-hours offering technical assistance.
“All of McHenry’s tax money is going to fix our problem that our supplier can’t fix,” Pozniak said.
For Jennifer Orchard, the water disruption led her to point out existing problems with the water quality in the system. On normal days, she sees residue left on her dishes. Her 4-year-old dishwasher’s walls have brown stains from the water.
To notify residents of a boil order, McHenry Shores Water Co. had a hand-painted sign posted to a city sign.
Mathews said Wednesday that the leak testing company he hired needed additional water pumped from the city in order to find the leak.
In a letter to residents, City Administrator Chris Black said the city did not want to pump more water into the system because the leak was not isolated.
“The city refused his request because the water company [was] producing the necessary amount of water for its customers and the service disruption is due to a system leak that [was] not yet isolated,” Black said in a letter to residents. “As a result, the city providing water to the McHenry Shores Water Co. would not help with the service disruption being experienced by many customers.”
In Black’s letter, he said two city workers on Tuesday afternoon began to help the water company in locating the leak.
However, the water company employees left the subdivision at 4:30 p.m.
Mathews said his crews did not work during evening hours because they had not located the leak within the six- to eight-block area. He added most of the water mains are in backyards.
“Can you see us stumbling out here in the dark?” Mathews said.
Mayor Sue Low said that if this were a main break on the city’s system, city workers would have worked through the night to fix the problem.
Black also updated residents on where negotiations stood on the proposed purchase by the city of the McHenry Shores Water Co.
The City Council supports buying the water system, but only at a reasonable price, Black said in his letter. But the city says it would need to make improvements to the system to address residents’ concerns.
In the spring, the city offered Mathews $2,000 per household in the water system, or about $1 million. Mathews has been asking more about $4,050 per household, or about $2.1 million.
Negotiations “are stalled right now, because they haven’t responded,” said Alderman Rich Wimmer, whose ward includes McHenry Shores.
Mathews said the city’s latest offer for the water system was unacceptable.
“It’s worth $9,000 a customer,” Mathews said.
If a sale does go through, it would require the city to establish a special service area for the subdivision to pay for the purchase and upgrades to the system.
Residents in the area would have to pay higher property taxes for 20 years to pay for the improvements.
That is a fee some residents said they don’t mind.
“I don’t mind paying taxes for better water,” McHenry Shores resident John Buckley said.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was on site assisting with bringing back water service.
Maggie Carson, spokeswoman for the agency, said it is too early to say whether Mathews could face fines for the water disruption. A final report on the outage is pending.
“If the operator was negligent and not acting appropriately, then we would consider bringing the Attorney General’s Office and pursue fines,” Carson said.
The IEPA doesn’t have authority to say who should control a water system, Carson said.
“We can’t make a determination which group should be providing water,” Carson said. “That is a local determination.”