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Oswego Public Works Director Discusses Village Water System

Feb 17, 2016 10:20AM ● By Steven Jack

By Tony Scott

In light of the recent drinking water controversy in Flint, Mich., Oswego officials Tuesday evening assured the public that the village of Oswego has safe drinking water, but that the area will face a dwindling water supply in the future and will also need to update its water infrastructure.

Public Works Director Jennifer Hughes told the board that the St. Peter and Ironton/Galesville aquifer the village pulls its drinking water from has “maybe 40 years left” of capacity.

“The drawdown on the aquifer was pretty severe going into the 1980s,” she said. “At that time a lot of the communities in this area switched over to Lake Michigan water, and we’ve seen quite a bit of rebound in that aquifer to that point. So we’re not in a crisis mode at the moment. Nonetheless, the state water survey is estimated that we have maybe about 40 years worth of water left in that aquifer based on current projections of population.”

Local communities, including Oswego, are looking at switching over to either Lake Michigan or Fox River water, Hughes said. Lake Michigan water is “technically feasible,” but has a high cost, she said; it’s much cheaper to connect to the Fox.

Hughes said village officials have also been talking with Yorkville and Montgomery officials about combining for a water treatment plant, and that the Village Board will see a report on that study in the next couple of months. Early estimates of a water treatment plant along the Fox River have reached as high as $40 million.

Oswego water quality

Hughes said the village treats its water supply with polyphosphate, which gives a coating to protect the minerals in the water from impacting the pipes and vice versa. The village tests for lead “every few years” and that they’ve never had a positive lead sample. The village also tests each month for bacteria in 38 homes and other points in the area, she said.

For residents who wish to test their water more regularly, especially for lead, Hughes suggested the services of Suburban Labs in Geneva. Suburban Labs provides lead testing for $40, Hughes said.

Oswego water system improvements

Hughes explained that the village has two funds - an operations fund and a capital expenses fund - to pay for its water system. The capital fund, used to pay for improvements, has so far been paid using connection fees by developers and with some money coming from the general operating fund, she said.

“We’ve been funding that at the level necessary to do new projects,” she said. “What we’re really suggesting is that, as the system is getting older, we’re going to have to start looking at replacement. So just as we replace vehicles that get old, at some point you have to replace water mains.”

Hughes said as the village is looking at major road projects and other improvements, officials should ensure that the water and sewer lines underground are repaired before, for example, a new road is built over the top of them.

“We’ve got a lot going on in the village in the water system, we do take this very seriously,” she said. “We have a lot of dedicated people who are working on this around the clock to make sure that we continue to provide safe drinking water to our residents today and in the future.”