Water From The Fox River


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What about the Fox?
By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Daily Herald Correspondent
Posted Monday, September 04, 2006

If Lake Michigan isn't realistic, why not dip into the Fox River system, which travels through Lake, Kane and McHenry counties?

Only two Illinois municipalities - Elgin and Aurora - draw from the waterway that stretches from Menomonee Falls, Wis., down to Ottawa in Illinois, where it connects with the Illinois River.

That's mostly because the river is a surface system vulnerable to all kinds of contaminant, from street runoff to dead animals.

Taking water from the river and making sure it's safe to drink is an expensive endeavor. Towns have to extensively treat and monitor the water.

To build a treatment facility like Elgin's would cost well over $40 million today, said Kyla Jacobsen, the city's water systems superintendent.

In addition, there's the cost of staffing the plant so workers monitor the content and pressure of the water 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Operators take water samples every two hours and perform a battery of tests and must be prepared to remove materials from the system when necessary, Jacobsen said.

The main benchmark is the turbidity, or clarity, of the water, she said. The more unclear, or turbid, the water is, the bigger indication there may be something present in the water, like bacteria.

The city uses alum as a coagulant to consolidate the dirt, debris and bacteria so the crud can be filtered out. The treatment plant also softens the river water, which is naturally quite hard, Jacobsen said.

Elgin switched from a groundwater system to river water in 1982, after steady growth prompted officials to explore their options.

About 94 percent of the water Elgin uses over the course of a typical year comes from the river. The remainder comes from the city's 11 deep wells.


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