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Dixmoor Boil Order Remains In Effect As Crews Continue Work To Identify Source Of Weeklong Water Woes

by Steven Graves and Todd Feurer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They have anxiously awaited this moment for a week. People in south Suburban Dixmoor finally have close to normal water pressure, allowing them to shower and wash dishes after more than a week with insufficient water pressure.

CBS 2's Steven Graves reports the catch is they still can't be confident the improved water pressure will last, as the recent fix is only temporary, and a boil order remains in effect.

For now, at least, there's some sense of relief.

It's what Cynthia Mossuto has wanted to see and hear for a week now.

"We went from a trickle to a nicer stream," she said.

She can now shower, do laundry, wash dishes, and just live in her home.

"People don't realize what a necessity water is until you don't have it," she said.

Now, water pressure is close to normal for thousands of Dixmoor residents who were getting only a trickle at best since last Saturday

"It's working now. I'm coming by to check on it," Village President Fitzgerald Roberts said.

Roberts said the improvement in water pressure is the result of a makeshift rig on fire hydrants, which is being used to reroute water from neighboring Blue Island.

"Hopefully this right here is a short-term fix. Prayerfully, maybe we can move over to Blue Island and get our water," Roberts said.

Cook County leaders said Saturday they believe the water main issue is in the city of Harvey - Dixmoor's sole water provider.

"It's a temporary fix that will allow engineers to diagnose the problem in the Harvey main," said Bill Barnes, executive director of Cook County Emergency Management and Regional Security, which is helping Dixmoor officials with repair efforts.

Roberts said crews on Friday identified a faulty "gate valve" as the likely cause of low water pressure in Dixmoor since last Saturday. He said a water main break in Harvey, which supplies water to Dixmoor, caused a valve in the main feeder line to shut down. The valve, which is more than 100 years old, apparently broke when it was turned back on.

Crews have dug up that pipe and were working Saturday to cut it open so they can insert a camera to locate the exact source of the problem.

But Harvey officials continue to insist the problem is with Dixmoor's pipes, not theirs, providing video on Friday of what they said is a broken water main in a wooded area of the village, leaking hundreds of gallons of water per minute.

Roberts and Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims said, while water pressure has been a significant problem for the village of Dixmoor for the past week, problems with their water pipes date back at least 15-20 years throughout the south suburbs, because so many of the pipes are more than 100 years old, and are corroding.

"This isn't just a Dixmoor problem. This is a problem throughout the south suburban communities. Robbins has a problem, Ford Heights has a problem," Sims said. "They wonder why the water bills in these communities are so high. The reason why the water bills are so high is because the water's seeping in the ground."

Roberts said it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when and where underground pipes are leaking.

"You can never just find a leak. You have to wait for a leak to show itself. How it show itself? It blows up through the ground. Other than that, you don't know what's leaking," he said.

Sims estimated it would take all of the $1 billion in funding Cook County received from the federal American Rescue Plan to fix all of the aging and leaking water pipes in the south suburbs.

"So Cook County can't do it alone, and we can't take our whole $1 billion and put it towards the pipes. So we're going to need money from the state, we're going to need money from the federal government, and we're going to need money from MWRD [Metropolitan Water Reclamation District]," she said. "It's going to take all of us together, working to figure out how we help the communities through Cook County, not just Dixmoor."

Meantime, residents can still use three nearby forest preserve campgrounds for showering while this temporary fix is in place: Camp Sullivan, Camp Shabbona Woods, and Camp Bullfrog Lake.

But, for now, from those like Mossuto there's thankfulness water is back.

"It was exciting! You know, you're always like, 'Oh man, here we go,'" Mossuto said.

She's hopeful that what she calls years of water issues in town will get more attention because of this.

"I'm not going to put the blame on anybody. I'm just going to put the blame is they should get fixed and they should have fixed it two years ago," she said.

Because of the back and forth, or blame game, between officials in Dixmoor and Harvey, it is still unclear for many on when a permanent fix will come, or how long this temporary relief will last.

Recently, there are reports increased water pressure coming from Harvey as the reservoir is now filling up. Businesses are able to open but schools will likely still be on e-learning on Monday. Bottled water continues to be available at Village Hall to residents who need it.

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