Work Samples

  • Megann Horstead

Joliet works to keep tap water safe

Water Tower (Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Samples)

From the Democratic presidential debate to national news coverage, the Flint, Michigan, water crisis has received a wave of media attention and forced cities across the country to re-examine their water supplies.

During the Jan. 31 state of the city address, Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk was asked whether the Flint’s water crisis had lead city officials to consider the overall safety of the tap water residents are drinking. O’Dekirk dismissed the concern, saying the city is constantly working to ensure the safety of its water supply. One group taking action to prevent the people of Joliet from suffering the same fate as residents of Flint is the city’s public utilities department.

Public Utilities Director James Eggen said the city wants to reassure those living and doing business in Joliet that they are in good hands.

“The city of Flint, from the information we’ve been able to ascertain, changed their water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River, and they adjusted their treatment process,” he said. “One of the critical pieces of the treatment is the chemicals that are added after the water filtration, and that’s the phosphate that needs to be added to the water.”

Phosphate has minerals, for example, that help to build up a coating on the inside of pipes, whether it’s iron pipes or in the case of Flint, lead pipes.

Because Joliet is an older town, Eggen said the city does have some lead pipes in its system.

“The water chemistry is different than the treatment process for Flint, Michigan,” Eggen said. “We’re on a groundwater system, so we’ve got a higher hardness on our water.”

Eggen said the city has protection from the natural occurring hardness of the water, adding that they also feed phosphate as a corrosion inhibitor in city water.

In December 2015, the Joliet City Council approved a contract to purchase phosphorus that would be applied after water filtration.

In February 2015, phosphorus removal planning was backed by city officials, allowing the city to adhere to new environmental regulations.

Eggen said Joliet is looking at how it can adapt to new measures that have been introduced.

“We’re going to have to do some enhancements in our wastewater treatment plants to determine the most econom