Water agency files eminent domain suit in latest effort to take over pipeline
The Northern Will County Water Agency has taken its next step in an attempt to gain control of a water pipeline and shut out the company that currently controls it — a company the five communities that make up the agency say has been unfair with recent water rate hikes.
On Monday, the agency — which includes representation from Lemont — filed an eminent domain lawsuit against American Lake Water Company.
Eminent domain is the power of the state to seize private property without the owner’s consent.
Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves said the lawsuit has yet to be filed but the agency gave the go ahead to attorneys Monday to begin the lawsuit process.
“It’s going to be in the court’s hands and the outlook is good for it,” Reaves said. “We have the eminent domain powers and I don’t know how that wouldn’t be in our favor.”
The agency was formed in March 2010 and is comprised of officials from Lemont, Bolingbrook, Homer Glen, Romeoville and Woodridge. Mayors from those towns voted unanimously to proceed with the lawsuit.
The Bedford Park pipeline brings Lake Michigan water to customers in the five communities. Illinois American Water, a subsidiary of American Lake Water, distributes water through the transmission line.
According to the water agency, the group has approached American Lake Water twice with offers to purchase the pipeline — first offering $34 million and most recently $37.6 million.
But IAW has not been responsive to the offers, according to Reaves.
“They just say none of their system is for sale,” Reaves said. “We are looking to stabilize the cost of water and eliminate undue expenses for customers on the line.”
Meanwhile, representatives of IAW insist the pipeline is not for sale, and that a pipeline take-over would be a “disservice” to customers.
“An eminent domain takeover of the American Lake Water pipeline will involve local governments in a legal battle that will take years to resolve and cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Michael Smyth, manager of Field Services and Production for IAW. “... In the end the cost to our customers will increase.”
Smyth said the water agency has yet to produce documents that show how taking over the American Lake Water pipeline will result in lowering costs to customers.
“As a public body, the agency has an obligation to provide transparency and full disclosure to the taxpayers of their respective communities who will bear the cost of this action,” Smyth said.
Reaves said it is unknown when the case will go to court and he anticipates the process lasting more than a year.
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