Lake Michigan Water Considerations

The decision to transition to Lake Michigan Water (LMW) vs. staying with our present deep well systems is extremely complex. Over the past decades various singularly focused studies have looked at the ground water supply, the deep water wells, Lake Michigan Water and associated costs for each. While those findings provided valuable information, today's requirements and options have shifted. The Village Board recognizes that there are substantial costs (in the millions of dollars) associated with providing a long term and safe water supply which demands a comprehensive study that explores all aspects at the same time. At the October 5, 2020 Village Board meeting trustees acted on a presentation and proposal from Engineering Enterprises, Inc. to deliver actionable findings by October 2021.

Lake Zurich Water Supply Past to Present - September 2020 Update

  • The Village’s public water supply began operation in 1912 pumping untreated water from shallow wells into its first local distribution system.
  • In the early 1970’s, the Village began the move to deeper wells as it was determined that the shallow wells could not provide enough dependable water to accommodate a growing population.
  • In the late 1980’s a consent order was filed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency against the Village of Lake Zurich to decommission the Village’s wastewater treatment plants. 
  • An agreement to send wastewater to the Lake County SE treatment facility was executed on August 16, 1989. 
  • Lake Zurich officially begins to discharge Wastewater to the Lake County treatment facility in March of 1994.
  • In December 2000, the U.S. EPA determined an MCL (maximum contaminant level) of 5 pCi/L for radium in drinking water after consideration of a higher limit.  Radium is naturally occurring in our deep well aquifer at levels above 5 pCi/L. 
  • In 2002, the Village entered into a Compliance Commitment Agreement (CCA) with the Illinois EPA to have our water supply meet the radium standard by December 2008.  Ion Exchange was selected for several reasons including initial cost, well site limitations and the ability to discharge concentrated radium backwash to the sanitary sewer system.  At that time, an allocation of Lake Michigan water was not available from the State and limits for radium concentration in wastewater had not been established.
  • By 2009, the total cost for the Village to become compliant and meet the radium standard for drinking water was approximately $9.5 million. $4 million of this investment was funded by the State’s revolving loan fund, which will be repaid through the Village’s utility enterprise fund (i.e. water/sewer user fees) by 2029.
  • In 2011, the Village was granted a conditional Lake Michigan water supply allocation. Studies and evaluations performed at that time determined the deep well aquifer might not be sustainable, or be able to meet anticipated water needs within the next 30 to 40 years. The study recommended that the Village consider switching to Lake Michigan as its primary source of water.
  • From 2012 to 2015, The Village initiated preliminary studies to identify possible suppliers and partners, necessary infrastructure, and a citizen survey to gauge public opinion. Survey results were inconclusive with opposition slightly higher than support. 
  • By 2016, the feasibility of obtaining a Lake Michigan water supply somewhat favored a partnership with the Northwest Water Commission. High project costs (and the loss of a partner), combined with a lack of short-term urgency or public interest, resulted in the concept being put on hold. 
  • In December 2016, the Lake County informs the Village that the Lake County SE treatment facility was upgrading their process to include the production of a Class A bio-solids.  The County indicates that the wastewater treatment plant improvements will require a reduction in the volume of radium that it receives from its water production partners, including Lake Zurich. 
  • From 2017 to Present, the Mayor, Village Manager, and the Director of Public Works have met with representatives of the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency (CLCJAWA) to determine the viability of a potential partnership to provide an additional source option for Lake Water. Given the geographical proximity to Lake Zurich, CLC JAWWA may be the most practical option if water supply capacity is available. CLC JAWWA initiated two operational studies to determine the water capacity available for potential new members, and a redundancy study that will provide looping options for their current water source.     
  • In 2019, Lake County revised their Pretreatment Ordinance and Sewer Use Ordinance, following the implementation of their treatment facility improvements for producing and selling biosolids.  
  • In December 2019, Lake County issues a letter asking the Village to prepare a plan for removing the radium produced by its ion exchange process from the wastewater stream sent to Lake County.  The plan is to be developed by the end of 2021.  

What are our options?

  1. Lake County’s Pretreatment Ordinance is prompting the Village to explore options for disposing the radium produced by its ion exchange process.  If the Village continues to rely on deep water wells, where radium is naturally present, these regulatory changes will require system improvements that will increase the Village’s operational costs. 
  2. State and federal water/wastewater regulations are constantly updated and made more restrictive, resulting in potential additional capital and/or maintenance costs in the future.  Transitioning to Lake Michigan water may be an option to avoid costly future regulatory changes. 
  3. There are alternate potential partners for a Lake Michigan water supplier.  The Village currently has partnership options that were not considered in the 2012 study
  4. The Lake Michigan water supply allocation can be rescinded by the State if progress for utilizing the allocation is not recognized.  To date, the allocation has been in effect for 9 years with limited progress.  

We must act

  • Lake County’s Pretreatment Ordinance is prompting the Village to explore options for disposing the radium produced by its ion exchange process. If the Village continues to rely on deep water wells, where radium is naturally present, these regulatory changes will require system improvements that will increase the Village’s operational costs.
  • State and federal water/wastewater regulations are constantly updated and made more restrictive, resulting in potential additional capital and/or maintenance costs in the future. Transitioning to Lake Michigan water may avoid costly future regulatory changes.
Name Position Telephone Email
Mike Brown Public Works Director 847-540-5066 Mike.Brown@LakeZurich.org
Steve Schmitt Utilities Superintendent 847-550-1773 Steve.Schmitt@LakeZurich.org