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Hermits Lake sewage to Crown Point?

Updated: March 26, 2013 12:04PM



CROWN POINT — At the March 20 Lake County Drainage Board meeting, the future of the privately owned Hermits Lake sewage treatment plant was discussed.

The county has been running the facility since the state took it over and directed the county to take over its operation. Dan Gardner, the clean water coordinator for Lake County Surveyor George Van Til, said that the sewer system that serves Hermits Lake, Hidden Lake and Hawthorn Hills subdivisions has been the subject of discussion regarding the feasibility of MS4 funding.

Any MS4 funding — for the separation of storm and sanitary sewage systems — has to be requested well in advance of disbursement. Gardner said he has been getting a lot of requests for MS4 financing from area communities.

In addition, the improvements to the Hermits Lake system would be so large as to require work from the Army Corps of Engineers, and that would take federal funding.

Mark Lopez, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, said, “I have had preliminary discussions with County Commissioner (Gerry) Scheub as well as Mayor Dave Uran on the subject (of taking this sewage into the City of Crown Point sewer system). Both expressed a desire to protect the public health interest of the residents in the impacted community.”

If the system were to fail it would impact Foss Ditch, Lake Dalecarlia, Lowell and the Kankakee River. Foss ditch is a regulated drain that flows south. This is located south of the continental divide. It does not flow north to Crown Point.

In February, the Drainage Board listed capital projects for MS4 sewage separation. They had identified Hermits Lake to qualify for submission to the Corps of Engineers.

The three rural subdivisions southeast and outside of the City of Crown Point had been polluting the south county waterways for many years. The state had repeatedly cited the small private treatment plant that served that area with dumping raw or poorly treated sewage into Foss Ditch.

The Lake County commissioners have been trying to get Crown Point to take it over since the adminastration of Mayor James Metros — the answer has always been no. It is a political hot-bed in the city.

The city has not only been reluctant to accept sewage from non-residents, the Hermits Lake system in particular is looked upon as not working properly. The county budgeted $285,000 in 2012 for running the system. That is more than the system receives in sewer fees from the 260-plus homes that feed into the system.

A number of wells in the area along 121st Avenue, or Buck Hill Road, have already failed and residents are paying the city to tap into the water system at this time, but only after signing a no remonstrance clause if the city should ever annex their land.

With wells failing it would be probable that all the residents of the subdivisions would be required to get not just municipal sewer but also water service. If this were the case then the residents there would probably be asked to voluntarily annex into the city.

The Board of Public Works and Safety had explained that they did not want to annex piecemeal but in one large piece of land.

In the past when an isolated instance of one home is allowed to get just water, just sewer or both, without becoming part of the city, existing residents have made large and loud objections.

In a story that appeared in the June 29, 2000 issue of The Star, under a rate increase in 2000 a state loan of $550,000 was paid off. There was also a grant of $550,000 to finance upgrades to the Hermits Lake sewer system. The Lake County Council also gave final approval in June of 2000 to create a Sewer Department that allowed the county to receive the state grant money.

James Flannery, a member of the Board of Directors of the Hermits Lake Homeowners Association, said that the association had modified and cleaned up the system and got the facility in compliance between 2002 and 2004.

“We were a nice success story,” said Flannery. “There had been through all of these dialogues the right thing to do here for the environment is to convert that treatment station to a lift station and pump across to the facility at Ellendale Farm. It is the appropriate environmental solution.”

Flannery also added that the equipment at Hermits Lake’s plant is ancient and is on borrowed time.

Flannery also felt as far as annexation it would have to be with a residents’ option regarding city sidewalks and city lighting. Normally those would be required for a city neighborhood.

“It could be done without it requiring that significant cost to the residents,” Flannery said.

All homes would have to have separate water, storm water and sanitary sewer lines to meet city codes. With MS4 court judgment on the city it would be hard to get anything done without meeting those requirements.



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