Friday, April 19, 2013
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Local officials tour new pumping station at Illinois American Water's Lincoln plant

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[April 19, 2013]  Wednesday evening Illinois American Water invited Lincoln city officials and representatives along with media to take a tour of the new pumping station on the city's south side.

Dave Schonauer, manager of the Lincoln water district, hosted the tour. Other Illinois American representatives on hand were Barry Suits, vice president of operations; Chris Johnson, from the Peoria District; and Karen Cotton, external affairs manager.

Mayor Keith Snyder, Alderwoman Jonie Tibbs and husband Harry, Alderwoman Kathy Horn, City Clerk Susan Gehlbach, and Chief Mark Miller of the Lincoln Fire Department were on hand to take the tour.

Schonauer said that this most recent addition of a new pumping house was the fourth project to be completed in the last five years. He said the pumping station was actually completed in March last year, but they held off on bringing folks to the area until all the cleanup work associated with the construction project was completed.

Schonauer said that just looking at the building, a $1.5 million price tag might seem quite high, but he said there was a tremendous amount of work that had to go into getting the building just right.

He began talking about the build by talking about the tear-down of the old Lincoln Power Plant. He said the original plant had been partly taken out, but what was left was the pumping station. That had to be taken down. He said the building, which was built in the late 1800s, had 18-inch-thick walls, and the rebar underneath the building was about 4 inches in diameter. He said some of the old-timers had told him that what had been torn down previously was taken down only to ground level. Schonauer said there was a tremendous amount of excavation beneath the ground's surface in order to completely remove the old building.

He shared many photos of the operation, from the tear-down through the construction of the new facility.

The new building was somewhat of a prefab, built off-site by Engineered Fluid Inc. of Centralia. He said about 90 percent of the building was constructed before it arrived in Lincoln. Then cranes were used to set it into place.

Illinois American Water draws its water supply for the city of Lincoln from four wells south of the plant. Schonauer explained that with the new facility, the water drawn passes through the water treatment plant and then goes directly to town during prime usage time. In addition, water is stored in a 2-million-gallon reservoir. As an example, Schonauer said for the meeting, the treatment plant had been shut down to cut down on noise, and all the water going into town was coming out of the reservoir.

Inside the new pumping station, Schonauer explained there are three huge pumps in place. With new technology, he said the system graduates itself so that pumps kick on and shut off according to demand.

Each pump in the new building has a top capacity to pump 1,800 gallons of water per minute. Schonauer said that when one pump is running and it senses that it is not keeping up with current demand, it powers down, the second pump comes on with it, and together they speed back up to maximum capacity. If that is not sufficient, then the two pumps power down and pick up the third one, and together all three power back up to maximum capacity. Schonauer estimated that in times of serious need, the plant has the ability to pump out in excess of 3,000 gallons of water per minute.

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This is especially important for the city fire department. With that kind of capacity, the fire department is better equipped to effectively battle a large fire in the city.

Schonauer also talked about a peril with firefighting that many may not be aware of. He said the city department does a great job of communicating with the water company what they are doing during a fire call. When hydrants are opened up to put out a fire, the demand for water increases greatly. The pumps kick in and do their job, and water is delivered.

But, when the firefighters start shutting down those hydrants, if they do so too quickly, they can really tear things up for the water department. Schonauer said the fire department is very good about contacting the water company and saying they are getting ready to shut down the water hydrants. The water department then begins slowing down the pumps and decreasing water pressure. He said the fire department is also very good about closing hydrants slowly. He said this is important because shutting them off too quickly would also cause a sudden burst of water pressure that could damage water lines.

Another benefit to the new building is that there is no longer such a terrible concern for flooding. The new building sits atop a low hill at the heart of the water company property. Schonauer talked about the fact that the old system sat in a very low area. He said he had accounts of the flood of 1926 at the water company, and he showed a large composite photo. He said he had information about that year and the efforts that were made to try to save the water plant. He said the town was seriously concerned that it would lose the city's water supply. He told the group, "Until we built this building, we had the same concern every year."

This year Illinois American Water will continue upgrading their systems in Lincoln to assure that water delivery to local residents remains constant. This year's plans include installing 120 feet of 8-inch water main. The project will be completed in conjunction with the construction of high-speed rail in Lincoln.

In a news release related to the tour, Schonauer was quoted as saying: "Illinois American Water continues to invest annually in its systems to ensure that local water quality and service continues to be as good as or better than local, state and federal quality standards."

Also in that same release was the following excerpt:

"The U.S. EPA reports that the nation's water utilities will need to make more than $335 billion in infrastructure investments over the next 20 years to ensure public health. Illinois American Water's investment in Lincoln is just another example of continuous investments and improvements being made, helping to meet the demands of today's customers and planning for the future."


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