JOLIET – Paige Martin's street is being torn up, which isn't so bad, she said.
Her street, Terry Drive, has been dug up for a new water main as part of a 5-year replacement and repair project across the city. Joliet is spending $72 million this year on water mains, sewer lines, and treatment plants.
Martin has not had water problems in the 18 years that she has lived on Terry, but she thinks replacing the main is a good idea.
"It's kind of preventative – rather than waiting for something to happen," she said.
Martin's street in the Glenwood Manor neighborhood is one of five areas of Joliet scheduled for water main replacement this year. The city will spend $36 million through 2021 fixing and replacing water mains.
A water main replacement on Glenwood Avenue began Friday with workers starting at starting at Wilcox Avenue.
Some of the oldest water mains being replaced this year are downtown.
A Jefferson Street project will be very noticeable as the city narrows traffic down to one lane between Joliet and Scott streets downtown to because of the work. The lane closures are scheduled to start July 13.
Martin said she's seen the need as she drives around town.
"Just driving in the city, obviously there's pipes bursting," she said. "You can see that,"
If there has not been a break on the water main outside Martin's house, there have been breaks farther down the line, said Joliet Utilities Director James Eggen. The new main will have more capacity.
Eggen said the city is targeting water main's that are in deteriorated condition or have had problems over the years. Some of the city's water mains are more than 100 years old.
"We're trying to do projects throughout the city in areas where it's needed, so we're not fixing a problem in one specific neighborhood," Eggen said.
Another $6.8 million is being spent to rehabilitate sanitary sewer mainlines this year in the first of a five-year program.
Areas where sewer work occurs this year includes Kerwin Estates, Belmont, Ridgewood and Parkwood.
Paying for it
The city is borrowing money from the EPA low-interest loan program and paying it back through the money collected on water and sewer bills.
Water and sewer rates increased 7 percent last year and are going up another 7 percent this year and in 2018.
They may have to go up more for the city to meet a goal of replacing 1 percent of the water mains every year as part of a preventative maintenance program, Eggen said.
Joliet has over 500 miles of water mains.
"To replace 1 percent of that every year would mean we would replace five miles every year," Eggen said. "We hope that through a series of rate increases we get to the point or paying for rehabilitation of the system on a cash basis."
Joliet borrowed $72 million in low-interest loans from the Environmental Protection Agency this year for water and sewer improvements, including replacing aging water mains and sewer lines.
Most of the money, $57.6 million, is being spent on two projects designed to meet EPA clean water standards.
• $38.3 million wet weather pumping station at the East Side Waste Water Treatment Plant. The station is part of the city's long-term Combined Sewer Outflow project to meet EPA standards that reduce the amount of sanitary sewage getting into the Des Plaines River during times of heavy rain.
• $19.3 million for improvements at the Aux Sable Creek Basin Waste Water Treatment Plant and West Side Waste Water Treatment Plant to reduce phosphorous, a nutrient for algae, in water discharged from the plants into rivers and streams.
"We've got new requirement from the EPA to remove phosphorous from our waste water discharge," Eggen said.
WATER AND SEWER LINES
2017 Water Main Replacement
Project Areas: Downtown, Glenwood Avenue, Forest Park, Terry Drive, Marycrest
Total Cost: $7.6 million
2017 Sewer Rehabilitation
Project Areas: Kerwin Estates, Belmont, Ridgewood, Parkwood, Parkhill, Edgecreek, Springview, Thunder Ridge, Bee Dee Highlands
Total Cost: $6.8 million