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DuPage Expects To Avoid Water Problems Seen In Flooded Texas Town

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Officials in Beaumont, Texas do not know how long their drinking water system will be out of service after flooding caused it to break down.

In the Chicago area, DuPage Water Commission officials said it is unlikely such a scenario could happen here.

The DuPage Water Commission pumps 70 million gallons of water a day to homes in the western suburbs; and Chairman Jim Zay said the main concern here is not the system flooding like in Beaumont, but a loss of electricity.

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DuPage Water Commission (WBBM/Bernie Tafoya)

That's why there are multiple back-ups.

There are three separated electricity lines coming in from ComEd and, "we've got diesel generators. We carry enough diesel fuel. We figure with the loads and stuff, probably four to five days we could continually pump water to the customers," Zay said.

DuPage Water Commission General Manager John Spatz said water officials nationwide will eventually get together to figure out what happened in Beaumont and come up with ways to prevent it again in their towns.

"You learn from other people's problems and hopefully you don't see that again," Spatz said.

He said that is what happened after 9/11 when water operations' security was beefed up. He said the multiple power back-up followed a massive outage on the East Coast.

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John Spatz, general manager of the DuPage Water Commission and Jim Zay, DuPage Water Commission chairman inside the back-up power generator building at the Commission's headquarters. (WBBM/Bernie Tafoya)

Spatz said the five generators are tested every week and, in the case of a big storm coming, a couple of them are put into operation just to make the transition even smoother should electricity go out.

He said the generators sense "that we lost power and comes on automatically. They sync with each other and within minutes, we're pumping again."

Spatz and Zay said the Lexington Pumping Station on the western edge of the city of Chicago, which pumps solely to DuPage, has a similar power back up system, plus one of the largest solar panel fields in the state.

As for the pumps themselves, the DuPage Water Commission has backup pumps situated high above ground level.

The DuPage Water Commission pumps 70 million gallons of water a day and is the second largest water utility in Illinois behind Chicago. Chairman Zay said the commission buys more than $100-million worth of water a year from Chicago.

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