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Costly water woes in Dixmoor not only point of concern among Illinois water systems

Officials urge action on permanent fix to Dixmoor's perpetual water woes
Officials urge action on permanent fix to Dixmoor's perpetual water woes 02:57

DIXMOOR (CBS) – Work continues on two more main breaks in Dixmoor, the south suburban village that's been plagued with water woes for nearly a year.

And while crews have been working tirelessly to fix the broken mains, the question still remains: how are they going to fix it for good?

CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey has been digging into that question, and found the problem in Dixmoor is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to water problems in Illinois.

One environmental advocate told Hickey that the message to Gov. JB Pritzker and state legislators is that is we should not wait for the next Dixmoor to try to fix this problem.

It's become a very ordinary sight and sound in Dixmoor: crews patching a break in the century-old water mains underground. As soon as they fix one spot, another one bursts.

"These pipes are so old, I guess any little pressure gets on it, they just pop," said Dixmoor Mayor Fitzgerald Roberts.

Several major water main breaks since last October have resulted in boil orders. One went on for more than two weeks. The most recent incident temporarily forced the closure of Dixmoor schools.

Roberts said the estimate of just how much it's going to take to truly fix the decrepit system has also escalated to $39 million.

He said Cook County has been pitching in and that he spoke with Pritzker about how the state might be able to help. But that kind of help takes time, and the village of about 3,000 residents can't wait.

Dixmoor officials want action to address persistent water problems 02:02

"Dixmoor, like many communities that we've seen throughout the Midwest, is a place that used to have a larger population and more economic vitality," said John Rumpler, the clean water program director for Environment Illinois.

Rumpler explained the history behind the problem.

"So it had a ratepayer base that could provide for much more of its own infrastructure dollars," he said.

And the problem isn't just in Dixmoor. Illinois as a whole received a D+ grade this year for its drinking water infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers. That's in part because many communities have been in violation of one or more of the EPA's drinking water compliance programs.

"We can't just allow hundred-year-old systems to fall into decay, and think that they're going to take care of themselves," Rumpler said.

Fitzgerald said, "It's already a disaster."

Rumpler added, "I guess my message to the governor and legislature is we should not wait for the next Dixmoor."

About $2 million in funding is on the way to install a new distribution water main but the project's bidding process won't even start until December.

CBS 2 reached out to the governor's office again to ask about the possibility of a disaster proclamation in Dixmoor, but they have not said whether the village can fit into that category.

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