Highland Park ready to break ground on $24M water plant upgrade
Water plant superintendent Don Jensen highlghts some aspects of water operations that will be rendered obsolete when the city switches to a membrane filtration system. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 14, 2013 11:34AM
HIGHLAND PARK — Water Superintendent Don Jensen is expecting some sleepless nights over the next two years.
The City of Highland Park is set to break ground Friday on a $24 million overhaul that will retrofit the George B. Prindle water treatment facility, built in 1929, around a membrane filtration system.
Studied and reworked for the past 16 years, Jenson is glad that the water plant upgrades finally are coming to fruition. But he noted that there may be times during the transition when the plant won’t be operating at full capacity. If that coincides with a period of drought, customers could be asked to conserve, he said.
Throughout the construction process, the city will continue to supply water round-the-clock to its 60,000 customers in Highland Park, Deerfield, Bannockburn, Lincolnshire, Fort Sheridan and the Glenbrook Sanitary District.
“It is always our goal to provide a service that people don’t need to think about, so they just open their tap and get clean, safe water whenever they need it,” Jensen said. “It will be a challenge. There will be times when we are faced with some critical junctures throughout the process that will give us some sleepless nights. We have very carefully game-planned this thing.”
The construction project will increase the system’s maximum capacity from 21 to 30 million gallons of water per day. The gravel-and-sand filtration method that has been in use for 100 years will be replaced with membrane filtration, which provides greater protection against waterborne disease organisms and eliminates the need for pre-treatment chemicals.
In mid-January, the city began a two-month pilot of the membrane system required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
The ground-breaking marks a milestone in a 16-year process that dates back to 1996, when the city began exploring ways to increase its plant capacity to meet higher demand. While the city was investigating its options, the emerging technology of membrane filtration gained widespread acceptance in the treatment of drinking water.
As manufacturing capability increased and prices decreased, the filtration technology became the preferred option among Highland Park officials. In 2007, the city selected the Memcor filtration system from Siemens Water Technologies Corp. The city also negotiated with the municipalities that purchase water from Highland Park to ensure the relationship continued throughout the financing of the water project.
The water plant upgrades originally were set to start in late 2011, but a newly-seated City Council slammed the brakes after construction bids came in $5.7 million over the $17 million estimate. In the months that followed, the city and its design engineers looked at less expensive options, including both conventional upgrades without membrane filtration and a membrane filtration system with a smaller capacity. In the end, the city chose to stay with membrane filtration at the higher 30-million-gallon capacity, but with some design modifications.
Because more electrical power is needed to push water through the membrane system, the project includes replacing 4,160 volt power lines with dual 12,500 volt power feeds to the treatment plant.
The official ground-breaking is set to take place at 11 a.m. Friday at the plant, 10 Park Avenue East.
The road leading to the Park Avenue Beach and Yacht Club will be barricaded during construction this summer and the boat ramps closed. Jensen is hopeful recreational use of the beach can resume in the summer of 2014.