If you experienced dribs and drabs of water dripping out of your faucets yesterday there was a logical explanation.
Oak Lawn residents and businesses reported extremely low water pressure throughout the village on Friday while an emergency backup generator system was installed at the Harker Pumping Station at 105th Street and Lockwood.
Power at Harker was shut off while the portable emergency generators were being installed, causing levels inside of the village’s water towers to fall, thus causing the drop in water pressure.
“[On June 30] I met with our engineering team and electrical contractor and informed the village board that I was taking emergency action,” Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said. “Two significantly needed emergency generators are being looped through the system at Harker.”
Harker—one of two pumping stations in Oak Lawn, the other being Reich at Southwest Highway and Kilbourn Avenue—is not equipped with emergency backup generators.
The emergency generators will provide protection for Harker and ensure that the pumping station is able to remain in operation in case of a significant power outage.
Oak Lawn has been pumping at full capacity, about 55 million gallons of water per day for the past two weeks. The village purchases Lake Michigan water from the City of Chicago and sells it to a dozen municipal customers including Orland Park, Orland Hills, Oak Forest, Mokena, Tinley Park, the Paloses, Chicago Ridgem Matteson and New Lenox.
Deetjen said that Oak Lawn was able to lock in the emergency generator equipment before the wildfires in Colorado and storms that hit the east last week.
“We got the equipment by the skin of our skin,” the village manager added. “Oak Lawn was very lucky. Elmhurst, Villa Park and other communities that have been without power for a week are searching for generators.”
The village’s electrical subcontractor has been preparing the wiring and cabling for the generators for this past week in sweltering heat. Deetjen said he made his decision because of the storm that knocked power out at Harker and thousands of residents in July 2011, as well as the current drought-like conditions.
“When we turned the power off we were unable to run the pumps at Harker,” Deetjen said. “Until you get the power back on you’ll be seeing reserve tanks start to drop and you don’t have as much water power. [Low] pressure was never at a dangerous level.”
The equipment is leased for the month of July, with an option to renew up to 90 days. Deetjen said that the village would have the ability to abort the lease at the end of July should the current weather pattern change.
The total cost of leasing the equipment including freight, equipment and labor is just under $100,000—“less than penny per gallon,” Deetjen added.
“The last time Oak Lawn pumped at capacity was during the 2005 drought. We were pumping at our maximum of 55 million gallons per day through September,” the village manager said. “We wanted to make sure we were able to pump in July, August and September if necessary.”
Residents, Businesses Report Pressure Drop
Oak Lawn informed its municipal customers that the village would be filling their water tanks before shutting off power at Harker to finish the installation.
Deetjen said that the village fielded “a handful” of calls from residents asking why they had no water pressure on Friday. The village’s emergency notification system was not activated informing Oak Lawn residents of the potential drop in water pressure.
Meanwhile, residents began reporting to Patch on Friday evening that Oak Lawn's bars were closing because there was no water. Readers on Oak Lawn Patch's Facebook page reported sketchy water pressure throughout the day from the southwest corner of the village to the area of in the northeast.
at the Oak Town Center and closed Friday. An employee at Quigley’s said they didn’t have enough water pressure to flush toilets and closed Friday evening. Employees at the bar were unaware of the Harker installation.
Deetjen said the newly installed generators were up and running by 10:30 p.m. Friday, replenishing the levels in municipal water towers. Workers were still waiting for ComEd to arrive to restore power at the Harker Pumping Station.