Metro-East News

SIUE water system improvements could cost $3.7 million

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will begin replacing the valves and fire hydrants of its water system soon, a project that could top $3.7 million.

Much of the water distribution system at SIUE dates back to the original construction of the campus more than 50 years ago. The 2,660-acre campus’ distribution lines remain in “generally good” condition, according to university leaders, but the valves used to control the system have begun failing.

“As a result, ever larger portions of the system must be shut down to accomplish maintenance and repairs, requiring greater disruption of university operations and campus activities,” read a proposal to the SIU Board of Trustees, which approved Phase I of the project on Thursday.

Phase I will replace the valves and fire hydrants in the most need, at an estimated cost of $600,000. To replace all the valves and hydrants that have been identified in need would cost $3.7 million. Phase 1 is anticipated to begin in the summer of 2017.

Approval for additional phases and the actual bids to conduct the work will be considered at later meetings. Funding for Phase I will come from funds for utility maintenance and deferred maintenance.

SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga said this project is not connected to the recent lead contamination discovered in SIUE’s water supply. Just before the beginning of the fall semester, several buildings had high levels of lead found in the water, and drinking water was taken off line for additional testing and repairs. Some water fountains were permanently taken out of order as a result.

The board also approved replacement of sidewalks and natural turf at the outdoor recreation complex on the Edwardsville campus. The new sidewalks will replace deteriorated sidewalks over the course of several fiscal years to match available funding, with design work funded through deferred maintenance funds, officials said.

The natural grass at the outdoor recreation complex will be replaced with a surface that is “more durable and rain tolerant” to allow extending playing seasons. The project cost will be finalized when estimates are available, according to a university statement, and will be financed with local funds. Approval by the Illinois Board of Higher Education will be required, as it is defined as a “non-instructional capital improvement.”

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald