Chatham decided to break away from buying water from Springfield. They notified citizens through the local newspaper that it would be cheaper and we could control our "destiny" to grow. (Springfield was allegedly limiting Chatham’s water usage.) We were not allowed a vote on this water issue. Chatham is a non-home rule unit of government, so a referendum to vote was not necessary. One of the justifications for this was that we needed to expand north of Mansion Road and CWLP would not allow for that expansion. However, Trustee Mau produced proof in the form of a potential agreement between the Village of Chatham and CWLP that would allow the expansion north of Mansion Road and alleviate the concerns the Administration had about "growth."
They seek to purchase well sites by Rochester. Many land owners did not want sell. The Village of Chatham Administration used intimidation and strong-arm tactics to force people to sell their land. Chatham ended up using eminent domain on several properties. One landowner did not sell and ended up suing Chatham for trespassing after they had begun to drill test wells on his property without his knowledge. One landowner would not sell to Chatham because of these tactics, but ended up selling to the engineer that Chatham uses, Joe Greene of Greene & Bradford. The land was then sold to the Village of Chatham by Joe Greene.
In Chatham, bonds were sold and money was used from other projects toward the water plant. ARRA money set aside for roadway improvement may have been used. We are multi-million dollars in debt now. They continually borrowed from the electric fund to pay the water fund; those funds were in a deficit. We are held responsible for the debt, but we do not - nor ever will - own the water plant. SSWC can raise our property taxes if we default on payment of bonds/loans. We are being charged water rates that Chatham projected for the year 2045.
It went from being a Chatham-Rochester project to being South Sangamon Water Commission (SSWC), with Village Manager Del McCord as the Commissioner. Village Manager Del McCord also acted as general contractor. There were then more bonds and more borrowing under SSWC. Once the water plant went online (May 2012), everyone noticed the lime scale deposits. Springfield water was softened by lime and the scale on the pipes served as a protectant. This lasted for several months. Many complaints were filed with the Village and SSWC. SSWC decided to try a new chemical. Then there were more complaints and a year of hard, bad tasting, odorous water with intermittent bouts of chemical build-up (iron and manganese). At the time, the SSWC operator was not cooperative and neither was the Village Manager.
In December 2014 the Water Quality Interest Group was formed. A town meeting was held. Over 200 people showed up, very angry at what was happening to their fixtures and appliances because of the water. The Water Quality Group moved forward with help from more citizens knowledgeable in water treatment and engineering. They pushed Chatham to run some tests. They discovered that the water was corrosive and exceeded some EPA secondary standards. They also discovered the reason behind the corrosiveness. The SSWC was/is producing water with high manganese and high total dissolved solids. It is hard water, but that is the least of the problems. The Water Quality Group pushed them for answers and solutions at meetings. SSWC released a press statement saying that they planned to install a greensand filter to deal with the manganese issue; 1.6 million estimated cost. Mr. McCord knew about the manganese when the plant went online, but did not address the issue and did not inform residents. He kept telling people that the water was fine and meeting EPA standards. The Village of Chatham then brought in Greene & Bradford to do a water quality investigation. It was terrible- a handful of test results that only showed minimal problems and an improper testing method was used making the tests essentially invalid. They did not troubleshoot the rest of the issues. Greene & Bradford charged Chatham to tell the citizens that “it meets EPA standards and is not corrosive”. This bill was outstanding for some time, as a couple of trustees refused to pay it until they see a scope of work.
After the citizens kept pushing for answers to the water problems and digging for answers on where our money went, Mr. McCord stepped down as Commissioner. He also announced that he would retire at the end of the year (2015). Mayor Gray appointed a new commissioner, Terry Burke. Mr. Burke is a former trustee who was contracted by Del McCord to install the transmission main from the Rochester well plant to Chatham. He is an engineer but not a water operator. He made over $100,000/year while the project was being built. The lawyer, John Myers, who represented Chatham, SSWC and New Berlin stepped down as council for SSWC. The following week, the same lawyer stepped down as council for the Village of Chatham and New Berlin. John Myers did all the negotiating for all the agreements with SSWC and New Berlin/Village of Chatham. During a few Village Board meetings, this was addressed by citizens as a potential conflict of interest and the ARDC was mentioned as a possible way for the citizens to pursue findings.
The citizens need help in finding out who is at fault and following the money trail. We feel that Del McCord, Tom Gray, Joe Greene, Terry Burke and Mike Williamsen (consultant in Chatham and also a former trustee) may have abused their positions and lied about the contract with Springfield. They also lied about the cost of the water plant project. Their tactics to buy well property was sketchy and questionable. We want to know why Greene & Bradford was always hired as engineers for all projects in the Village of Chatham. We want to know why Williamsen is involved, as he is not a water expert. We feel that Chatham is paying friends and family just because they can. We want to know where the money went and where it is going now. There is a lot of grey area between Chatham and SSWC since the Village Manager had acted as commissioner, Village manager and general contractor during the construction of the plant. The trustees did not know anything about SSWC, as Mr. McCord kept quiet during many meetings. We have FOIA’d information, but need help moving forward in uncovering the wrong-doings of the Administration.
Update 1-2016: Citizens continue to experience corrosion and scale deposits and taste and odors. Copper levels are gradually increasing, but not over the MCL. Three trustees urge legal counsel to begin strategic default if possible. Mayor Gray finally asks legal counsel to contact the FBI regarding a threat to Trustee Boyle.
February 1st, 2016
Water Quality Interest Group Update
Since the new water plant went online, we have had many discussions and meetings regarding the quality and cost of the water from the South Sangamon Water Commission.
In the beginning stages of the water plant going online, the Village Administration assured residents who had complaints that the problems they were experiencing would go away after an adjustment period.
As the problems continued, the residents were told the problem was a scaling problem caused by CWLP water. They stated they were going to feed ORA-CLE to get rid of the scale. They assured residents this would fix the problem.
When the problems continued, a citizen's group formed and began pushing for answers. The SSWC finally admitted maganese was high but were not sure how to resolve it. Other than that, they believed the water was okay because it met EPA standards.
Over the course of the Water Quality Group's efforts to seek answers, our former Village Manager resigned as SSWC Commissioner. The attorney representing SSWC, the Village of Chatham and New Berlin also resigned. The engineers and consultants have quietly stepped away. A new firm has been hired to run the water plant. The Mayor has appointed a new water Commissioner. The Village Board has hired new legal counsel.
The new plant operations firm believe the Village of Chatham's mains and flushing is the problem. Chatham started flushing, wasting money. One would think with a new firm, new commissioner, new attorneys and some admission of the water problems that SSWC would have the problems resolved by now. Unfortunately, the Village of Chatham has spent millions of dollars on a water plant that has failed expectations. The Village of Chatham is now going to have to spend millions of dollars again in repairs, chemicals and equipment and still will not be able to deliver good water as promised. Millions of dollars spent on a water plant that the Village of Chatham will never own and will never produce good water is no longer a good investment for our community.
After careful review of all the facts, we have determined the best resolution to our water problem is to go back to having CWLP as our water supplier. We now have three trustees in favor of investigating strategic default. Trustee Clayton, Trustee Boyle and Trustee Lindhorst are in favor of going back to CWLP. If you are also in favor of going back to a trusted water supplier, please email or call the other trustees: Trustee Kimsey, (firstname.lastname@example.org) Trustee Mau (email@example.com) and Trustee Schatteman. (firstname.lastname@example.org) If you would kindly please include the Trustees in favor of going back to CWLP in your emails that would also be appreciated: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Water Quality Interest Group of Chatham
Two weeks ago, we talked about the concerns of our water being like Flint, Michigan (corrosive enough to leach lead and/or copper). As you know, I have always questioned corrosion. We have collected pipes, faucets, filters, all showing physical evidence of corrosion. You’ve seen pictures and heard complaints. We’ve even talked about the copper data suggesting corrosion. **These are test results taken in 2014 and 2015. These are not the water tests required by the SDWA. These are extra tests conducted by our water department, because they wanted to know what’s going on with our water and our distribution system. They tested hydrants, toilets, humidifiers, solids in the bottom of water heaters - they even ran tests on old pipes in the ground.
Here is what you need to know: Within the distribution system, there IS high lead, high copper, high manganese, high chlorine. Listen closely - these results are the canary in the coal mine. These are warnings that you need to listen to. The water IS corrosive.
Corrosive enough that SSWC switched their chemical feed six months ago to try to correct for the corrosion. In their August report, they stated that the “copper corrosion rates could stand to be lower" so they switched their chemical feed to address corrosion control. I do not feel that the switch improved our corrosion problems. And since that switch, we have a new problem. People are having their hair fall out and break off and skin issues are at an all-time high. This problem has just been within the last six months or so. You can correlate that to the chemical feed change. If you’d like to call these “allegations”, try telling that to someone who is having hair loss and shedding and spent money on doctors who can’t find anything wrong. This is not allegation, its fact. The people in Flint said that hair loss and skin issues were their first symptom. We just can’t have this here.
So here’s the scoop on the corrosion control chemical used at this time (mostly to address iron and manganese) - It’s proprietary. It’s a mix of polyphosphates and orthophosphates; it’s anybody’s guess as to what chemicals are blended into this proprietary mix. This is important because we can’t identify specifics to help us determine why we’re having hair loss or other skin issues. This proprietary mix of chemicals is used to aid in corrosion control. But...here’s another “you need to know":
The use of polyphosphate to sequester iron and manganese that the plant failed to remove during the sedimentation and filtration process is a desperation maneuver. Undesirable quantities of iron and manganese in raw water should be properly oxidized and should be deposited in sedimentation basins. Polyphosphates are not ideal or the preferred solution for any water treatment plant’s iron and manganese problems. They should only be used to catch the few particles that were missed during the mechanical removal processes.
I have asked W&C twice in two separate meetings and once by email to investigate and delineate the nature and relationship between the dissolved minerals that may contribute to corrosion. I don’t believe they intend on doing this as its not normal testing for plant operations. But that would help them figure out the specificity to which all the minerals interact and react to the chemicals being added, and the outcome of any changes.
In December 2015, they also changed their chlorine feed, from chloramines to free chlorine. This would also have an effect on the other parameters and minerals influencing corrosion.
So they tried to correct for the corrosion without understanding what affect the chemicals added would have on the other minerals. Perhaps the proprietary chemical is having an unexpected effect on the other minerals, causing hair loss/skin issues. Or it’s a side effect of the proprietary chemical itself. ***When you change the chemical properties of water, you can see indirect effects on other water parameters. We are AGAIN seeing the negative effects of their learning curve.
Something HAS to be done. You can listen to their theories and explanations and wait for things to get better, or you can realize that the plant will never produce good water, because it was not designed correctly. You have repeatedly stated that it was not designed correctly. They keep taking problems and issues one at a time, and as individual items their solutions may be appropriate. But if you combine all of the problem parameters and take an in-depth look at the whole system, you will realize that we have enormous problems. One chemical feed change affects everything else. There is no quick fix, and no one can just step in and “fix the problem”.
You may recall that Athens also had issues with their water and never hit a maximum contaminant level, but their copper pipes were being pitted by the water. We just can’t have that here.
We will continue to have issues because the plant was not designed correctly. We could sink more money into it or we can step away. If Mr. Jurgens finds that strategic default is at all possible, I would urge you to take that route. Even if it will cost us to get out of the contract with SSWC, I would urge you to do so. Cut our losses and step away before we’ve wasted more money on a product that is ruining our community. If you have doubts on strategic default, I would urge you to take a look at the bond payments. I cannot begin to understand how they are going to make those payments with the revenue being generated at this time. Take a good look at that - because a rate hike just to pay for the status quo is what we’re facing. Also, the increase in costs to make corrections in the plant design is something we must consider.
Lastly, when they look back at this and start investigating, like they’re doing in Flint, they’re going to say “did anyone listen to the citizens?”
And they’re going to say “who’s at fault?”
And they’re going to say “who tried to keep it quiet and why?”
And what are you going to say??
(Synopsis: Simple mechanical removal of the problem minerals (TDS) would alleviate most of the chemical feed. But mechanical removal means re-designing the plant with proper oxidation and sedimentation basins. This would only address mineral issues, not alkalinity or hardness.)
Statement read at the Village meeting 02/09/2016