Western Springs hoping new water system pays off
Raw water treatment 1st floor progress
What’s the cost
A 2009 cost comparison of reverse osmosis, lime filtration and lake water costs done by the water research group shows the annual cost for reverse osmosis at about $3 million. Lime filtration came about the same and Lake Michigan water at $3.5 million.
Reverse osmosis had lower personnel costs than compared to lime filtration as well as slightly cheaper production costs. Lake Michigan water was the highest cost due to the price of purchasing the water from the city. The price of Lake Michigan water is also set to rise significantly next year.
The overall cost of updating the water treatment facility comes in at just more than $8 million and construction is being funded by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Public Water Supply Loan Program. This is a 1.25 percent 20-year loan.
Updated: June 4, 2012 8:06AM
With construction well under way to convert the water treatment facility to use a reverse osmosis filtration system, residents may have noticed a drop in the quality of water due to the limited functionality of the plant. However, once the changeover is complete, Western Springs will have the highest quality and most cost effective water filtration system available.
The village water is purified using a lime filtration process, a system that has been in place since the water treatment plant, 614 Hillgrove, opened in 1932. Western Springs’ water comes from three wells that draw water from the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer, a vast underground natural water supply that spans northern Illinois and parts of the neighboring states. From there, the water is carried via pipeline to the Western Springs water treatment facility and purified using sand filters, lime treatment and a clarifier to filter out the lime.
“The village knew they had to update the water plant because it was so outdated, so in the late ’90s, the village formed a group to research our options,” said Director of Municipal Services Matt Supert.
When they came back with their results in about ’04, reverse osmosis was still a pretty new technology and was very costly, so the group initially recommended updating the lime filtration system. However, by the time they finalized and published the results, an engineer recommended that the village take another look at reverse osmosis because the costs had come down.”
Reverse osmosis is achieved by pushing water through a semi permeable membrane that allows only the water to pass through, not the impurities or contaminates. However, according to research presented by the Western Springs water research group, the output water is “pure” H20, which is not optimally palatable because it is too soft and lacks minerals. Therefore, the reverse osmosis water is combined with unfiltered aquifer water to add minerals and enhance taste.
No other immediate Chicago suburbs have a reverse osmosis plant.
“Because of their proximity to it, almost all of the suburbs get their water from Lake Michigan,” said Supert.
However, there are other reverse osmosis plants once you get further from the Chicago area, the largest of which in Geneva.
“We made the change to reverse osmosis mainly to comply with the EPA guidelines for radium levels,” said Mike Martens, Geneva’s supervisor of water treatment and supply. “However, RO is better for removing pharmaceuticals that get into the water supply and it creates softer water, which means we save money because we don’t have to buy water softeners.”
The Geneva plant went into operation in March 2008 after an 18-month construction process.
“When we first switched to RO, there were a couple growing pains,” said Martens. “We had some complaints about the taste at the beginning because of iron-build up in the pipes, but we flushed the hydrants and dissolved the iron build up. Now, things are great.”
Based on the most recent status reports, construction is about 15 percent complete and should be done in the first quarter of 2013.
“We have had a few complaints during construction because we’re not doing any water softening right now, so people are experiencing harder water,” he said. “Also, people are getting some water spots on their dishes due to calcium precipitating out of the water.”
Due to the limited well usage, the Village Board has enacted water use regulations for the summer months. However, Supert is confident that the village is in no danger of running out of water.
“If necessary, we can always take water from Well No. 3, which would give us enough water to cover the highest amount that we’ve ever recorded using, it would just mean that the water would be lower quality because of how hard the water from Well No. 3 is, and we want to avoid that.