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Hawthorn Woods holds meeting on July boil water advisory

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HAWTHORN WOODS, Ill. — Village of Hawthorn Woods and Aqua Illinois officials gathered Monday evening to recap what went wrong earlier this month, when a boil advisory left many Lake County residents without safe drinking water for days.

The special village board meeting — convened at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Hawthorn Woods — was a chance for residents from impacted areas to speak out on the boil water advisory that left community members without water for nearly six days straight through the Fourth of July holiday.

“So, we can all hear together what happened,” said Dominick DiMaggio, mayor of Hawthorn Woods, on the purpose of the meeting. “Why the break in the main took so long to find, where the leak was discovered, and how [Aqua Illinois] can provide assurances for the future.”

Earlier this month, residents told WGN their confidence in the water utility company was waning — and Sunday — questions put forward encompassed a variety of topics, ranging from maintenance to future improvements and infrastructure.

Representatives with Aqua Illinois told the community members gathered for the meeting they fell short, especially when it came to their communication early in the days-long event.

“I apologize on the behalf of Aqua and I want to convey that idleness along with our operators,” said David Carter, President of Aqua Illinois.

Aqua Illinois said one of the breaks in the pipes leading to the boil water advisory was found near an elementary school (information provided on the water utility company’s website did not specify where the leak was specifically found) on July 2, with smaller leaks found in other places, associated with hydrants.

“They were very, very minor [leaks],” Carter said. “In fact, some of them were so minor, we wouldn’t seek to fix them most times.”

Aqua Illinois reps also said they assumed the problem stemmed from high demand on a holiday weekend. Because of that, they said they didn’t put forth the appropriate effort until two days into the incident.

“That lack of recognition about how serious of a disruption this was going to be really delayed us understanding the severity of it being an emergency,” Carter said.

Aqua Illinois also thanked the village for “standing up when we weren’t here.”

While officials recognized area water was safe to drink according to test results, they said the boil advisory was required by the state of Illinois’ EPA standards based on water pressure.

Moving forward, Aqua Illinois officials said they will be looking into extra technology to detect leaks proactively, while also creating a community advisory council made up of local customers — who they encouraged to consider getting involved at the meeting Monday evening.

“We think we should have recognized it earlier,” Carter said. “And we can sit here today and promise we will recognize it earlier in the future.”

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