Chicago water rate hike trickles into Palos Hills

By Kelly White

Palos Hills' water rate rose 13 cents in 2012 and 23 cents this year, and residents can expect to pay 30 percent more by 2015.

The City Council last week announced the cost of water increased 15 percent this year, from $6.69 per thousand gallons to $6.92. Palos Hills raised the rate to compensate for an increase in the rate Oak Lawn charges the city for water. Oak Lawn has increased its rate because Chicago, from where the village gets its water, raised the cost 15 percent this year.

Oak Lawn provides water for several suburbs including Palos Hills, Chicago Ridge, Country Club Hills, Matteson, Mokena, New Lenox, Oak Forest, Olympia Fields, Orland Hills, Orland Park, Palos Hills, Palos Park and Tinley Park.

Palos Hills' rate hike will be used to fund water delivery, maintenance and operation of the city water system, said Alderman Frank J. Williams (5th Ward).

Palos Hills residents can expect 15-percent increases in 2014 and 2015.

"Unfortunately, the city of Chicago plans to raise our water rate about one hundred percent over a five year period, and right now, we are in the middle of that rate increase," Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett said.

Oak Lawn has purchased Lake Michigan water from Chicago since 1948. The city's main water treatment plant is on the lake next to Navy Pier. Oak Lawn pumps water into its distribution system from two pumping stations, the Reich Pumping Station at Southwest Highway and Kilbourn Avenue and the Harker Pumping Station at 105th Street and Lockwood Avenue.

Chicago raised the rate it charges suburbs 25 percent in 2012 and 15 percent this year, and will do the same each of the following two years. The hike is intended to fund the replacement of aging pipes, sewers and pumping stations, and repaving of the streets above - work that is projected to cost $2.8 billion. Suburbs that receive water originating in Chicago are expected to benefit from the refurbished infrastructure and better water pressure, according to Chicago officials.