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Great Lakes Article:

Local control of water best, official says
By Susan Brown
Northwest Indian Times
Published February 22, 2006


ST. JOHN | For the town to continue pumping Lake Michigan water after June would be more costly and complicated than implied in comments by the town's public works director, Town Council President Michael Fryzel said Tuesday.

Following Monday's meeting of the Sanitary/Waterworks District, Public Works Director Robert Pharazyn had said the town's hesitancy to convert to lake water was largely based on economics, with the cost to the town being in excess of $1 million.

Fryzel, however, said the cost would be 12 times the estimate given by Pharazyn, with the cost passed on in taxes to residents along with a loss of control of their water system.

"If we could have done it, we would have done it, but the cost to the residents would have been astronomical," Fryzel said.

Even if the Council of the Great Lakes Governors approved the measure, Fryzel said the buy-in cost would be $1 million a mile per pipe, which would add up to a $12 million bond issue.

"Our residents pay high enough taxes in this community," Fryzel said.

In addition to the taxes, Fryzel estimated water bills could double immediately and could increase every year after that if under the control of the water companies selling Lake Michigan water.

In contrast, under local control, the town has not raised water rates in 13 years, Fryzel said.

Fryzel said research since the 9/11 terrorist attacks also has shown waterways are susceptible to terrorist attacks.

"Right now the best security is to have your own water system," he said.

Moreover, 93rd Avenue is a dividing point for the community, Fryzel said. Half the town sheds north to Lake Michigan while the other half sheds south to the Kankakee River Basin.

The current iron problems plaguing the town were not widely expected, Fryzel said.

Fryzel said the water treatment plant expansion is ultimately the responsibility of the Town Council though it's a project under the control of the town's utility board.

Engineers told the council, the board and Pharazyn that shutting down the filtering system and treating the iron with chemicals was an acceptable practice implemented nationwide, he said.

"They still think we can treat it with chemicals, but I'm not willing to take that chance," Fryzel said.

Fryzel said the town has done its research and is confident there's no health risk, but he, too, is experiencing the cost and annoyances of the discoloration and other problems.

Residents should be seeing relief by Thursday or Friday, when the whole system should be converted to using Schererville's lake water, he said.

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