Despite earlier corporate assurances that the problem was being resolved, hundreds of Lake County residents awoke Thursday without reliably safe drinking water for the fifth consecutive day.
The emergency has affected an estimated 1,200 Aqua Illinois customers in Hawthorn Woods, Kildeer and nearby unincorporated areas since Sunday morning. Many had no tap water at all until Wednesday — and some say they lost service again after temporarily getting it back.
People are angry at the utility company, complaining about the duration of the crisis and what they’re calling poor communication.
“We received messages saying we should conserve our water usage when we didn’t have any water,” Hawthorn Woods resident Susan Bauer said. “They have failed to keep (their) customers updated with timely and accurate information.”
Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart agreed.
“The time it has taken for Aqua Illinois to fix this is unacceptable, as is their lack of communication with the residents,” Hart said Thursday morning. “My heart goes out to the residents that are affected by this water issue.”
In a statement on its website, Aqua Illinois on Thursday thanked people “for their continued patience as we work to restore full service and lift the boil water advisory.”
The Aqua Illinois system in the region is based near Midlothian and Old McHenry roads. It includes two groundwater wells, an ion exchange system to treat the water supply, a 370,000-gallon water storage reservoir and miles of water mains, according to the Lake County public works department’s website.
Aqua Illinois has blamed the crisis on three water main leaks and three leaky fire hydrants. The system’s water reserves already were low because of the ongoing drought, Aqua has said.
To make up lost volume, water from elsewhere in Aqua’s regional service area has been used to fill the local reservoir and help maintain system pressure.
Aqua officials said the company fixed those leaks, but problems persisted Thursday.
“Our neighbors down the street are still without water, and men are working down the street again,” Bauer said. “We had water for awhile yesterday then lost it again.”
As of Thursday morning, Bauer’s home had running water.
Even if water service returns to all the affected homes today, the crisis won’t be over. Because low water pressure can allow contaminants into a supply, people still are being urged to boil water before use or to use bottled water.
Aqua expects the boil water advisory to remain through the weekend.
Lake County’s Hart urged residents to follow the boil advisory “to keep themselves and loved ones safe.”
Bottled water is being provided free to customers at the Hawthorn Woods Aquatic Center, 94 Midlothian Road.
“We will continue to provide bottled water at the Hawthorn Aquatic Center until the boil water advisory has been lifted,” the statement from Aqua read. Water also is being provided and transported by the Lake County Emergency Management Agency, the Salvation Army and Hawthorn Woods.
The aquatic center actually is part of the problem.
It’s on Aqua’s system, and a water line break there shut the park down Wednesday and again Thursday. Aqua Illinois is providing engineering support to resolve the issue, the company said.
In addition to boiling tap water, Aqua has been urging affected customers to conserve water. That request became an order Thursday in Hawthorn Woods, where customers have been told to stop using lawn sprinklers until notified.
Updates from Aqua are available online at aquawater.com/iljuly2023.php.
Aqua Illinois serves about 280,000 people in 14 counties, its website states. Its parent company, Pennsylvania-based Essential Utilities, serves 3.2 million people across eight states.