Highland News Leader

As work on Highland’s water mains wraps up, boil orders become a daily occurrence

In the past week, Highland has had nearly a dozen boil orders issued — some even twice in one day.

The boil orders are part of a “final push” to complete a $1.8 million project to replace the city’s aging pipes and mains throughout town, some of which are more than 60 years old.

“It seems like a lot and it is but they’re absolutely necessarily,” said Public Works Director Joe Gillespie. “We don’t want them as much as our customers don’t want them, but the goal here is to get new pipes in place so we don’t have to do any boil orders in the future.”

The project aims to replace three mains and pipes on Broadway from Illinois 160 to Polar Street, on Illinois 143 from U.S. 40 to Troxler Avenue, and the”White City” mains along Deal, Ceda, Beech and Monroe streets.

Gillespie said the mains are cast iron and are nearing the end of their life span, creating many of the boil orders that came before the construction. In 2017, the city had 25 water main breaks, half of which occurred at critical mains. A main, on average, costs $1,500 to repair.

“We don’t like them any more than our customers do,” Gillespie said. “But the goal here is to get new pipes in place so that we don’t have to deal with future boil orders because of failing pipes.”

The city is paying for the improvements, among others, with a water rate hike every year for the next five years to fund the projects.

The sheer number of boil orders is due to the process of connecting the new mains. Gillespie said as the work on the mains and the surrounding infrastructure wraps up, more boil orders will occur. Replacing the mains requires such precautions.

Boil orders ask those who would use water at the affected addresses to boil the water for a period of time before using it. They typically last 24 hours and are lifted when results come back from a lab confirming the water hasn’t been contaminated.

This can be a headache to not only residents, but also local businesses, Gillespie said, who use water in large quantities throughout the day. However, Gillespie noted the boil orders have been for only a handful of addresses.

“In order to tie in the new water mains to the existing water mains you have to stop the flow of water and connect the pipes together,” Gillespie said. “The boil orders, while there have been numerous ones, most of them have been a handful of address or customers affected.”

He said those temporary frustrations should almost completely subside once the new mains are in place.

Gillespie added the projects main work should wrap soon, but that he expects the clean up to take a bit longer.

Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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