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Great Lakes Article:

Residents push for lake water
By Marlene Hunt
Evanston Review (IL)
Published October 28th, 2004

Residents in four unincorporated subdivisions in Libertyville Township want Lake Michigan water for their homes. They say well water supplied by the Countryside Water System contains radium and contaminants that exceed water quality standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 500 families seeking the water live in Countryside Manor, Libertyville Estates, Ashford Trails and Terre Fair subdivision. To extend the water lines, Lake County, which receives its water allocation from the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, indicates it is willing to absorb the estimated $750,000 connection costs.

The county was scheduled to present its new findings to the water agency Wednesday evening. The agency's board was to have voted on the issue at that time.

A previous motion to extend water to the areas, subject to a tap-on fee of several thousand dollars, failed in a tie vote with six of nine members present, said Ed Glatfelder, executive director of the water utility.

Residents favor an Illinois EPA requirement requiring a written agreement for the county to comply with federal regulations for water purity by a stated deadline. The county department of public works indicated new connection fees would not apply to the residents requesting the extension since the houses in question already paid a connection fee to tap into the Countryside Manor system.

The county's new forecast, part of its framework plan that projects water demand based on land use and future development, shows the water agency has enough water available to supply all members' needs, including the Countryside Water System, should board members grant the request.

"We are exposed daily to water that is high in radium and dangerous for my family and children," said Countryside Manor resident Darlene Schick on Friday. "I'm told our water system's use would be only a drop in the bucket to the Joint Action Water Agency, that there is enough water for us."

Residents, including Millie Kepler, a resident of the Terre Fair subdivision, blame Libertyville Mayor Duane Laska for not pushing their request before the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency, the water utility board, which he heads.

"Despite our support of (Libertyville), Mayor Laska has refused to give us the clean water we need for health. This astounds us," Kepler wrote in a letter to Pioneer Press. Pioneer Press received several letters this week from residents on this issue.

"Water capacity is a serious issue," countered Laska, who chairs the agency board. He reported that the water agency could not meet its peak demand on three occasions over the past seven years.

The water agency controls the distribution of Lake Michigan water for member communities. Glatfelder indicated the agency's calculations differ from the county study in terms of peak capacity, and not basic demand.

Equity issues are also a concern as member communities accepted the financial risks of the water system funded by property taxes paid by their residents for the past 15 years. The communities are represented by village presidents, or their alternates, who determine water-related policies.

The communities that formed the utility and underwrote the $100 million construction of water lines from Lake Michigan to the central Lake County communities include: Grayslake, Gurnee, Lake Bluff, the Round Lake consortium, Libertyville, Mundelein and Lake County.

The county, a founding member of the agency network, supplies water to Vernon Hills, Wildwood, Knollwood and Rondout.

State controls

Lake Michigan water allocation is controlled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Since 2001, the department allowed few increases. One provided for an additional water allocation for Round Lake and another change allowed the county to transfer the Bradley Road system water allocation to the Knollwood-Rondout system.

The water agency policy allows water service to non-member municipalities only if there is a contaminated water supply or an inadequate supply of water.

JAWA officials say they want to review results of their own survey that forecasts water demand and future needs.

"Capacity is the issue with the board," Glatfelder said. "JAWA is not in the business of selling water; it exists to supply the water needs of its members. The problem with extending service to outside areas or taking on new customers is that we lack definitive information on our ability to meet current and future needs of the agency's members."

Glatfelder said that the water agency has a contractual commitment to its members: "Many are not totally built out yet; hence, we have to project and be able to meet their needs before ascertaining there is excess capacity to sell outside the system."

Future needs

Laska also underscored the need to recognize and plan for the future water demands of all of its members. He said the agency's new population demand study will define the locations of need and determine water demand before the agency takes future action on problem areas.

"There are significant areas in the county that were developed on small water systems, or with well and septic systems that are close to existing members. The problem becomes where do you stop and who are going to serve. JAWA can't serve them all at this time," Laska said.

Marlene Hunt can be reached at hunt@pioneerlocal.com

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