By Richard S. Gubbe
Work will begin next week to hook up 15 homes with contaminated wells to city water on Rockford’s west side, while the households in the area will become annexed to the city, The Rock River Times has learned.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has contracted Stenstrom Companies LTD. of Rockford to connect 15 homes that have been determined to have benzene-polluted well water.
The annexation of land in the area north of Auburn Street and west of Amerock will be absorbed into the city simultaneously, according to Tim Holdeman, water superintendent for the City of Rockford.
While the federal government will be paying for the connections to the city water supply, the city will be paying for any plumbing problems that occur after the changeover, Holdeman said. That money will come from a grant from the City of Rockford.
“A private well system will deliver 30 to 40 pounds of water pressure while ours delivers 60 to 70 pounds of pressure,” Holdeman said. “There is some possibility when the hook-up occurs that it could create leaks. Any house that is in good repair can withstand 60 to 70 pounds, but the fact is we’re making the change. If hooking up the resident gets any major leaks, where’s our responsibility in this? But the fact is, the USEPA is trying to do something good and we don’t want to do anything negative.
A grant through the Human Services department will cover the costs, Holdeman said, if the homeowner qualifies financially.
“If they qualify, the grant is applicable to small household plumbing repairs,” Holdeman said. There will be no payback or interest for the grant, he said.
Holdeman also said annexation letters have been sent out, and annexation will come shortly before or during the hook-up.
“Everybody is going to get in rather quickly,” Holdeman said. He also said the regular water bill water will include a garbage fee of $14.20 while the average water bill will be $25 to $30 and translate to a $40 to $45 bill for most households with an average family of four to five people.
Although the source of the benzene contamination is being investigated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the source has not been determined. The IEPA investigation began last October. The USEPA determined in December that residents on Alliance and Soper avenues, as well as homes on Auburn and Parkside, will be connected to city water at no charge.
Brad Benning of the USEPA field office in Chicago told TRRT that a meeting with Stenstrom construction company and the City of Rockford to coordinate the plan is planned for Feb. 2.
“Work will begin the following week,” Benning said.
Many of the homes in that area tested for more than the allowable EPA limits for benzene, a component of gasoline.
Bids went out to contractors last month. Assistance was requested by the IEPA to the USEPA Oct. 13 for the residents on Soper and Alliance avenues and included the offer and delivery of bottled water in 5-gallon containers to the homes affected in the area around the 1200 block of Soper and Alliance avenues. Homes on Auburn and Parkside streets also were determined to have contaminated wells.
The USEPA connection to city water will include sealing off old wells, Benning said.
Benning said the request for help came Oct. 13 from Bureau of Land Program Director Bruce Everett of the Illinois EPA in Springfield, Ill.
From the Feb. 1-7, 2012, issue