Homer Glen, partners vote to sue to acquire water pipeline
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com December 10, 2012 3:30PM
Updated: January 12, 2013 6:14AM
Officials from Homer Glen and four other towns who for years have contended their residents’ water bills are too high took a significant step Monday in their attempt to wrest control of the water system from a private company.
The Northern Will County Water Agency — a partnership between Homer Glen, Bolingbrook, Woodridge, Romeoville and Lemont — voted to file an eminent domain lawsuit against American Lake Water Co. after a bid to buy its water pipeline fell through, Homer Glen Mayor Jim Daley said.
Company officials contend that an eminent domain takeover will prove even more costly to residents and have said the water agency is not being transparent about the costs.
The distribution network that brings water to homes and businesses in the five communities is owned by Illinois American Water, a sister company of American Lake Water, which operates an 18-mile transmission line that Homer Glen and the other four towns hope to acquire first.
“What we have to do is return a safe product to the people at the most reasonable cost, and we believe we can do it cheaper,” Daley said. “It’s been one rate increase after another rate increase, and we need to start getting better rates than $200 a month in water bills.”
Daley said Homer Glen residents have had problems with American Lake Water since the village was incorporated 11 years ago.
“They’ve continually just banged the drum on water rates and done it to the point we have no other choices,” Daley said. “They were running people out of their houses.”
Daley said the lawsuit could go on for a year and a half.
He estimated the water pipeline is worth about $34 million.
Michael A. Smyth, a senior manager for Illinois American Water, disputed Daley’s estimate, saying “only a jury” could determine the value of the pipeline. He reiterated the pipeline is not and never has been for sale.
Smyth also rejected claims of price gouging, saying any water transmission company can only affect less than 10 percent of a household water bill.
“An eminent domain takeover of the American Lake Water pipeline will involve local governments in a legal battle that will take years to resolve and will cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” Smyth said in a prepared statement. “Eminent domain is expensive, lengthy and divisive to a community ... How can the water agency pay for bond fees, consultant fees, millions of dollars for legal fees, tens of millions for acquisition of the pipeline, then establish an office, hire people and acquire trucks and equipment and still lower water rates?”