Metro-East News

August 4, 2014

Turning on the faucet: Rural residents will soon tap into water system

Marty Mueller is look forward to turning the faucet on.

He can recall when his family first got electricity.

"I was four years old," he said. "I remember that."

Seventy-five years later, the 79-year-old still gets water from a well and uses salt to soften the iron-hardened well water near his rural St. Clair County home on Mueller Road, near the intersection at West Concordia Church Road. Later this year, he and 169 other residents of rural Millstadt and Stookey Township, who have relied on wells, cisterns and ponds, will tap into a new co-op that will provide them with water from Illinois-American Water Co.

"I'm glad to see it," Mueller said.

Work on the Concordia Water Cooperative is underway along Mine Haul Road, where crews are digging and laying approximately 21 miles of 4-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch PVC water main that will connect to the water company's source.

Mueller and his neighbors live in this previously strip-mined area. Although the mining ceased about 40 years ago, the ground water was gradually polluted with iron, sulfur, manganese and aluminum.

Kim Swisher, an area specialist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development in Mt. Vernon, said these residents have been underserved.

"The area is excited about getting them hooked up and getting the water supply available to them," Swisher said. "There was a lot of ground work involved to get everything set up."

The initiative began about nine years ago, when Monroe County Electric Cooperative initially helped launch a water co-op. The $2.6 million project is being funded through a $1.75 million, 40-year loan with a 4 1/4 percent interest rate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has provided $731,235 and the cooperative has added another $170,000 to the project.

The cooperative is member-owned and governed by an elected board of directors who set the service rates and policy. Larry Haas, president of the co-op's advisory group, said after the co-op becomes viable and grows enough it can then start paying back the first capital credits. Any profits are returned to the members. Haas is also among the co-op's customers.

Haas said the 70 customers who live near the east end of Illinois 13 should be able to turn the water on by mid-September. The remaining 100 residents are expected to tap into the water system by mid-January.

The co-op is expected to save customers money. Haas said the cost will range from $45 to $90 a month, which will be cheaper than the $100 to $150 a month some have had to pay for water delivery and $50 to $100 a month for water treatment.

Joyce Kruger owns two properties in the new co-op within a block of the intersection at Concordia Church Road and Illinois 163. She has a shallow well that cannot be used for drinking water. Up to this point, she has had to have water delivered to her properties.

"I'm very happy and excited," Kruger said. "It's important to have water from the co-op. It guarantees that we have a good water source."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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