Monday, November 13, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. during a Nov. 7 regular board meeting, where he presented the status of the village’s water system. | Michael Romain/VFP
Village of Maywood officials said that they’re making progress on fixing the town’s water and sewer infrastructure after to a two-part investigative report published in October by the Chicago Tribune showed that the village has among the highest water rates in the Chicago region.
The average monthly water bill for 5,000 gallons of water charged to Maywood residents in 2017 was $72.61 — higher than the rate for 156 of 162 municipalities that provided the Tribune with information.
Part of the reason for such a high water rate, the paper reported, is because of aging pipes that transport water from its source in Lake Michigan to residents’ homes. The old infrastructure translates into massive amounts of water that leaks, busted pipes and water main breaks, among other incidents.
As of 2014, according to the Tribune, more than 60 percent of Maywood’s reported 62 miles of pipes were at least 61 years old. Another 16 percent of pipes were older than 40 years. In 2016, Maywood reported losing around 39 percent of the water that it buys from Chicago due to leaky pipes and broke water mains.
According to a June memo sent by Edwin Hancock Engineering, Maywood’s contracted engineering firm, to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the water lost through leaks and broken water mains was closer to 50 percent. The state standard set by the IDNR is 12 percent.
During a Nov. 7 regular meeting, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. said that the village has made some marked improvements to its water infrastructure. In the past five months of the current fiscal year, he said, the amount of water loss has “dropped immensely because of the various improvements provided by the Public Works Department and the Water Collection Division.”
Norfleet said that the drop in lost water has been due to the village replacing 15 fire hydrants, 50 buffalo boxes and having repaired 25 water service lines.
“It is likely that most, if not all of these water system items were experiencing leaks,” according to an updated version of the village’s 2016 Water System Improvement Plan. “The leaks have now been stopped, which should result in a direct reduction in water system losses.”
Norfleet said that the village has saved 10 million cubic feet of water in the first five months of this fiscal year, which is “equivalent to having one free month of water from Chicago and Melrose Park that we don’t have to pay for,” he said.
Charts detailing the village of Maywood’s water usage, total costs, total billed to residents for water, sewer and gas (W/S/G) services and the total collected since 2014. | Village of Maywood
The largest of the recent improvements was the installation of a 12-inch water main at ComEd, 1319 Maybrook Drive, on Oct. 23.
“We’re making a major stab at reducing the loss of water and in two months, we’ll have a real good idea how much less water we’ll up having to purchase from Chicago because of the new meter on ComEd,” Norfleet said.
Norfleet said that the money that’s saved from purchasing less water from Chicago can be put to fixing the village’s aging water and sewer infrastructure.
“Every drop of water we don’t have to buy from Chicago is money we’re saving,” he said. “You can use the money saved from water not bought from Chicago to pay for [repairs and improvements to the local water system].”
Norfleet also presented the Water System Improvement Plan from 2016 to village board members that included at least nine water loss mitigation actions that the village has either already implemented or plans to implement next year. A major goal of the plan is decrease water loss by 10 percent in 2019.
Among the actions are the ongoing investigation of the village’s water accounting system, including the methods by which the village estimates water usage for billing purposes, the establishment of “ongoing mechanisms for customer meter accuracy testing, active leakage control, and infrastructure monitoring,” the investigation of all unmetered facilities such as municipal buildings and recreational facilities, and the removal of dilapidated water mains from the system, among other actions.
At the regular meeting, Norfleet said that the village would need to plan for replacing its entire system of aging water infrastructure over the long term.
“Because of the age of the community and infrastructure, at some point you’re going to have to begin to make public investments on a schedule based on the resources that you have,” he said. “We will have to begin to do that on a regular cycle basis.”
- There are a significant amount of properties in Maywood that are vacant. The method of estimating the water usage of these properties will be investigated, as it may be a potential source of error. The review is currently ongoing.
- The village still needs to compare the annual water rate usage per each high volume customer (typically commercial customers) over a period of the last five years and identify and investigate any large fluctuations in usage. It’s been suggested to physically replace the meters of the top 40 users in Maywood to reduce the aged metering losses.
- The village planned to test 10 percent of high volume customers in 2017 and the next 10 percent in 2018 for a total of 20 percent of all of the high volume customers by 2019. This process resulted in the replacement of the ComEd water meter,
- The village’s consulting firm is planning to send out an inspector to open manholes and investigate “undetermined water main leaks” that are currently draining directly into manholes without notice.
- The village is in talks with the Cook County Forest Preserve District about an unknown unmetered hydrant/connection at a forest preserve location and also about an effort to abandon an aged water main with a history of breaks.
- Approximately 1,200 feet of old water main was replaced in 2016 along Railroad Ave., from 21st to 15th Water main crossings beneath the Union Pacific Railroad were scheduled for this year. The village is also considering the replacement of a water main along 1st Ave., which has a history of breaks and that was just recently discovered. (SOURCE: 2016 Water System Improvement Plan | Village of Maywood).
View the entire 2016 water status report below: