Highland News Leader

Highland declares groundwater within city limits unsafe, bans drinking from wells

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Highland city officials declared the city’s groundwater unfit for human consumption at a recent city council meeting.

The council unanimously approved a ban prohibiting the use of groundwater as a potable water supply due to contamination from industrial and commercial properties around the city.

The prolonged use of those properties have led to chemical contamination of the groundwater beneath the city that exceeds Illinois’ Class I groundwater quality standards.

Highland Fire Chief and Interim Director of Building and Zoning Brian Wilson said the move is long overdue, as using wells has become outdated. He said he doesn’t know of any wells in town that are used for drinking water.

He said banning the wells will limit potential threats from the surrounding groundwater contamination while the redevelopment of properties that are the source of said chemicals continues.

The problem properties stem from two locations off Madison Street and a gas station off Sixth Street. The chemical contamination at those locations are currently being removed, but that doesn’t mean the problems will be solved.

“You never quite get it all,” Wilson said.

Wilson said often even when a problem area is cleaned, the chemicals can still spread to surrounding properties.

He said that’s why it’s best to ban all use of well waters for drinking water, to avoid and future problems.

“What a lot of communities have done is to go ahead and be proactive rather than doing several individual parcels as you come aware of them.

City Councilwoman Peggy Bellm said the use of wells for drinking water is long outdated.

“We’re past this,” Bellm said.

The council also voted unanimously to ban the use of travel trailers as dwellings inside city limits. The ban was seen as an additional proactive move and isn’t seen as a current problem in town, said Planning and Zoning Administrator Breann Speraneo.

The two bans were accompanied by new restrictions to special promotional advertisements, but the council voted that measure down.

Other Council Action

  • The council approved a bid for a new city website for nearly $25,000. It will be the first website renovation in 12 years.

  • A final vote approving the consolidation of Business Districts A and B was held, officially combining the two to correct an error made in the planning process. The funds from the taxing district will fund the new public safety building.

  • Three older fire trucks were declared surplus by the city and are planned to be sold. They will be replaced by two used fire trucks the city purchased last month.

  • The council approved a proposal for a new city-wide wayfinding and signage system City Manager Mark Latham said is hoped to help visitors and residents find landmarks and other areas around town.

  • Construction for a new roundabout at Broadway, Iberg Road and Veterans Honor Parkway was approved.

  • A bid was awarded for purchase and installation of a city-wide camera system.

  • A bid was awarded the removal of asbestos at 717, 719 and 723 Main Street. The three buildings are set to become parking lots.