Water main repair has affected Martin Luther King Elementary, Rosa Parks Middle schools
DIXMOOR, Ill. (WLS) -- The five broken water mains in Dixmoor that closed local schools for two days are expected to be repaired by Wednesday night, Dixmoor Village President Fitzgerald Roberts said.
"I appreciate the help we are getting from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle," Roberts said. "The crews the County sent us have helped us get to a point where we can get these repairs done. I also thank Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, our Village Board, our staff, and our public works department of all of their hard work."
Two south suburban schools reopened Wednesday after a series of water main breaks kept them closed for days. Currently, there are no boil orders in the village.
The school district superintendent initially said schools would remain closed another day, then backtracked and said they would be open. Just before 6:15 a.m., Village President Fitzgerald Roberts confirmed schools would reopen.
Sunday's water main break that closed Martin Luther King Elementary and Rosa Parks Middle School also left more than 1,000 families without water.
Another happened Monday morning off of West 147th Street, and at least two more were found during a Tuesday morning survey. The suburb has faced at least nine water main breaks since Friday.
Corrosion that's been eating away at the pipes for the last century is cracking one after the next. By Tuesday afternoon, the village was battling at least four active water main breaks.
Residents in Dixmoor have grown accustomed to using bottled water for their daily needs, but it's made life much more difficult for everyone.
"I drink bottled water now; I don't drink the faucet water," Dixmoor resident Carla Murphy said.
Village President Fitzgerald Roberts recognizes it's a serious problem, and the village is fixing it one patch at a time. But they're having to scramble more frequently; the same thing happened at least twice in July.
"You can't cook, you can't wash. It's a serious problem," he said.
The infrastructure is old, likely more than 100 years old, and can't keep up. Cook County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pitch in $2 million to the village for repair work that starts in October. For now, they'll hope Monday and Tuesday's patches will hold.
The schools, which make up two of Dixmoor's three, remained closed Tuesday for testing by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
There is also a boil water order -- only in the affected areas of the break. The village president said the order is likely to remain in place until 1 p.m. Wednesday.
While Dixmoor has had the most problems when it comes to water over the last year, it is one the entire Southland area is struggling with and that they can't simply fix on their own, no matter how badly they want to.
"A lot of these municipalities don't have the funding to fix it," said Commissioner Deborah Sims, with the Cook County Board 5th District. "You look at Dixmoor, it's a small community. They have enough problems. Unless we can pump enough money into these communities, we're going to continue to have these problems."
Cook County is helping with some immediate resources, but the village president said roughly $25 to $30 million is needed to fix the system.
"I'm waiting for the governor to step in. I wish he'd file a disaster because really it's a disaster -- soon as you fix one pipe the other pipe blows up," Roberts said.
Three new water main breaks were the focus for crews Wednesday.
"It's just been break after break -- can't keep going on like this," Roberts said.
But families were happy to have their kids back in school.
"It's been OK. We didn't want them home, but I am happy the school is back open. The water is back on. My son is very excited to be back in school," parent Adrienne Hines said.
Others were frustrated.
"It's terrible. It's terrible. It shouldn't be going on. It's inconvenient," said Utica King, aunt of King elementary students.
The village plans to rely on bottled water to finish out the week. The water pressure appears to be OK in the schools, so the bathrooms are working, but there may be plans to bring in some kind of porta-potty trailers in case more goes wrong.
"It's a struggle in terms of planning. We have to plan if we go to remote, but we don't want to go remote due to the fact the kids been out two years already," School Board President Michael Smith said.
The governor's office has reached out to Roberts in the hopes of setting up a meeting in the coming days.
But, in the meantime, the village president is comparing the water problem to what people are experiencing in Flint, Michigan.
"We probably right next to them, right next to them due to the fact that you have breaks everywhere. Since I've been in office, I stopped counting after 30 breaks," Roberts said.