Residents and business owners in Dixmoor, a suburb about 18 miles south of Chicago, have been dealing with water pressure issues for several days now, leaving many reliant on bottled water and forced to boil what little water they can get through their pipes.
City officials provided an update Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at the Dixmoor Village Hall, located at 170 W 145th St.
The community has been dealing with water pressure issues for nearly a week, with water coming through pipes in a trickle or not coming through at all. While water pressure is supposed to be around 35-to-36 pounds per square inch (PSI), the community has routinely seen PSI readings in the single digits, including dramatic reductions on Tuesday.
The problems have forced businesses to close, schools to turn remote and village buildings to close their doors.
So how did it happen and what is being done to fix it?
The pressure issues started over the weekend when officials said water pressure dropped to less than half of its normal levels, “effectively cutting off” water from the village's roughly 3,500 residents. But the area had been dealing with water problems for even longer.
Last Thursday, the village board declared a state of emergency over water supply issues.
Several broken pipes were observed in both Harvey, which is where Dixmoor’s water comes from, and in the village itself, and while those pipes were repaired, water pressure still has not been restored, despite officials’ confidence that it would be resolved following the repairs Monday.
A boil order was put into effect after the pipe breaks, according to officials, who said they were also waiting for the community’s reservoir to fill up. After that, the officials hoped to have turbines resume operation, ideally leading to a restoration of water pressure and service.
But that did not happen and on Tuesday, a new issue arose.
According to the update from village officials, water was being pumped from the city of Harvey at 35 pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI), the ideal amount to allow for uninterrupted water service and adequate pressure.
When that water reached Dixmoor however, pressure dropped to 11.2 PSI.
The reason behind the discrepancy was an issue with the village's turbines.
While one of the turbines was functional, it could not be used at full capacity while the water pressure from the feeder source remains low. Officials are working to resolve the issue, but a second turbine at the facility will likely need to be replaced in order for repair work to be successful.
As a result, a boil order remained in effect for village residents, and bottled water was made available at Village Hall for residents.
By Wednesday, however, the village's president issued a plea for help.
“We need help,” Village President Fitzgerald Roberts said. “We need someone who can help us find this problem.”
Roberts said he is seeking help from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker as well.
“I would like help from the governor, from the federal level, all levels to get involved with this issue, where we can take care of this infrastructure out here where this problem will not occur again,” Roberts said.
Village officials and various charities, including the Salvation Army, have been handing out bottled water to residents.
In the community, some businesses have remained closed since the water pressure issues began, and students at the community’s schools are remote-learning as their classrooms remained closed.
“It’s like living in a third-world country,” resident John Lannan said.
Lannan says water at his home grew stronger at one point Wednesday, before retreating.
“Try not being able to take a shower. Try not being able to do laundry,” he said. “Try not being able to do dishes for five days, and then you’ll understand our frustration.”
By Thursday, Roberts said there were small signs of progress, but not enough.
Some areas reported having water again, but for most of the town, water pressure troubles continued. A boil order remained in effect.
It remains unclear when the water pressure will return to the community, and workers are continuing to tackle the myriad issues facing the village.
On Friday, Cook County opened several free shower facilities in Oak Forest, South Holland and Willow Springs. The facilities are open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on weekends from 7:30 to a.m. and again from 4 p.m. to sunset.
Showers are open at the following locations:
- 14630 Oak Park Ave., Oak Forest
- 15810 S. Torrence Ave., South Holland
- 9600 Wolf Rd., Willow Springs