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Great Lakes Article:

Plainfield considers switch to lake water
Village faces radium deadline


By Patricia Trebe
Article courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
October 24, 2001

Facing a federal deadline to remove radium from the village water supply, Plainfield Village Board members this week said they were leaning toward abandoning the current deep well system and bringing in Lake Michigan water.

The village has three options to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's order to remove the radium by December 2003: install a central ion exchange system that softens the water; install a lime softening system; or pump in Lake Michigan water through Citizens Water Resources Co. of Woodridge.

In January, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources granted the village a Lake Michigan water allocation, making the third option possible.

Each of the options would result in higher water bills. The ion exchange system would raise the average monthly household bill from $19.70 to $32; Lake Michigan water would raise it to $44.80; and the lime softening treatment would raise it to $53.40.

All of the options would provide soft water from the tap, said Steve Larson, vice president of Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers, the Mokena firm serving as Plainfield's consultant.

Trustees agreed lime softening was too expensive.

"And then you still have to drill 15 more wells [for the ion exchange]. It seems to me that Lake Michigan water is the way to go," said Village Trustee John Cherry.

The village must commit itself to a timetable by Dec. 15 to comply with EPA regulations, Baxter & Woodman said.

Last December, federal EPA regulators declined to increase the allowable amount of radium in water and issued an order limiting the element to 5 picocuries per liter. On average, Plainfield's well water contains 9 picocuries per liter.

In addition to radium, the village must consider the source of water and its limited supply, said Larry Thomas, vice president of engineering for Baxter & Woodman.

To keep up with growth, the village will have to drill a new well every three years. By 2020, the village would need 15 deep wells to keep up with demand, said Derek Wold, project engineer for Baxter & Woodman.

Surrounding communities are in the same situation as Plainfield and use the same aquifer. Use will eventually deplete its supply.

"It is not necessarily going to be the source of water in the future. Using the deep sandstone wells is only an interim solution," Thomas said.

Trustee Stephen Calabrese said cost is only part of the picture.

"My main concern is . . . where is the village going to be in the future? I am worried about our supply 40 to 50 years from now. Seems to me, in my opinion we need to go with Lake Michigan water," Calabrese said.

"If we do the ion exchange system, we are just putting off the problem for 20 years. From everything I've read and seen, I'm leaning toward Lake Michigan water," Trustee Ron Swalwell said. "Furthermore, the village's Lake Michigan water allocation will be lost if not used."

Thomas said, "I'm not aware of any community that is sorry they have [Lake Michigan water]. I know that there are communities that are sorry they haven't used it."

Engineers will return to the Village Board with a recommendation.
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