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Water main break nearly empties Western Springs water tower

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 9:57 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — A water main break caused a million-gallon water tower to drain Tuesday in Western Springs.

Village officials do not expect to lift a boil water order until sometime Wednesday, more than 24 hours after the break caused the water tower in Spring Rock Park to drain to nearly empty.

A public works crew was on the site Tuesday morning using a backhoe to dig into the soppy ground to find and repair the break underneath a baseball field south of the tower. The repair was completed by midafternoon, but the boil order affecting all residents will not be lifted until the tank is refilled and the water is determined to be safe.

The break occurred about 2 a.m. Tuesday, but the village was not aware of it until 5 a.m. when a public works employee noticed water spouting from the broken main.

The park, on the village's western edge bordered by the Tri-State Tollway on the west and the Burlington Northern railroad tracks on the south, was not flooded, despite the large loss from the water tank.

"A lot of it is still probably underground," said Matt Supert, director of municipal services.

Ken Hayes, chief water operator of the village water plant, said an alarm on the tower is supposed to alert police of a break of this type. However, the system did not work, and no one in his department knew of the break until early Tuesday. He said the village water plant at 614 Hillgrove Ave. has been under construction for more than a year because the village is changing its water treatment methods. He did not know if that had anything to do with the alarm system not working.

The boil order is the latest problem that residents have had with their water, particularly since the construction work at the water plant began about a year ago, according to some residents.

"The water is extremely hard and loaded with minerals," said Stephanie Holt. "It's caused a lot of damage to people's plumbing, appliances and clothing. It makes life kind of miserable."

Jack Hogan, owner of Mecenat Bistro, said the water problems have been so bad that he bought a $5,000 filtering and softening system for his restaurant at 821 W. Burlington Ave. after some of his appliances were damaged by the water.

"It's what you have to do. Otherwise you're spending thousands of dollars on maintenance," Hogan said. "We've got customers. We've got to give them decent water."

According to a notice on the village's website, quality has been affected because the plant is not able to soften the water during the construction. The work is supposed to be completed by January, according to the village's November/December newsletter.

Unlike many other suburban communities that rely on Lake Michigan water, most of Western Springs gets its supply from wells.

The boil order was issued because there were concerns that bacteria could get into the system due to low water pressure.

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