Outside Dawn Jones’ house is one small section of dusty road that’s part of something big as Joliet replaces 18 miles of water mains this year in an ongoing project that will proceed at the same pace or higher through the decade as the city gets ready for Lake Michigan water.
Contractors this year have been tearing up roads in 12 sections of the city, putting in new water mains, and replacing lead service lines where they find them.
“So far it’s been good,” Jones said of the work around her house on Second Avenue. “They did in front of my house yesterday, and they were done in no time at all.”
One day the water was shut off for three hours, which Jones said has been the only problem.
Neighbor Michael Coleman said the city should “compensate us for all this dust. Your car is dirty every day.”
But residents interviewed in the Oakview section of the city, where the work includes a stretch of East Washington Street, said they have been informed about what’s going on.
“They gave out leaflets and let us know,” said Treyshaun Rowsey, 15, in between mowing the lawn at his family’s home amid the construction around it.
City engineers said communication was a high priority this year as they stepped up the water main replacement program to its highest level yet.
“For a project this size, it’s really been pretty successful,” said Bill Baltz, deputy director of field operations for the city’s Utilities Department.
Complaints have been minimal, Baltz said.
In addition to flyers, contractors are instructed to put door-hangers at houses alerting residents to when construction is about to begin. Door-hangers also go out ahead of any water shutoffs scheduled during the work.
In addition to the printed notices, the city keeps running progress reports on its website.
“Our website has helped out quite a bit,” Baltz said. “That’s been a big resource.”
A resident in the Oakview area can go to the city website and see a map of the area under construction, get details on where water lines are being installed and when, and find that the project is expected to be completed in November.
The same information is provided for the 11 other areas of the city, some of which are near completion.
There were to be 13 areas in the project this year, and 20 miles of water mains installed. But a downtown project has been pushed back to 2023 because of supply chain problems.
“That’s what we struggled with most, trying to procure ductile iron pipe because of the supply chain issues,” Baltz said. “It has slowed down the start of some of the areas.”
A Laraway Road project is estimated to start this month. But only 1,500 feet of the 6,100 feet of ductile iron pipe needed for the job has been procured, a problem that could push that project back a year if more pipe is not available.
Joliet is on a 2030 deadline for the delivery of Lake Michigan water.
Replacing aging water mains is a big part of the project because Joliet needs to reduce the amount of water loss from the current rate of 32.6% to 10%, which is the standard set for municipalities that use Lake Michigan water.
Leaky water mains are considered the primary cause of water loss, and Joliet is replacing all mains built before 1970.
Water main replacement costs have been estimated at between $34 and $38 million a year.
Other areas of the city included in the project this year are: Garnsey Park-Edgerton subdivision, EJ Walsh subdivison, a section of the Cathedral Area, Reedwood, Parkview, Ridgewood, Fairview, West Acres, Hickory Street and River Bluff, and a section of Essington Road north Route 30.