Keeping Up In Chicago

Caitlin Cunningham: The Jardine Water Purification Plant (JWPP), the world’s largest conventional treatment plant and an AWWA ACE10 facility tour host, has been serving the city of Chicago since 1964. How has the plant evolved over its lifetime?
John F. Spatz, Jr.: One way the James W. Jardine Water Purification Plant has evolved has been to stay current with technology. At JWPP we have the SCADA that allows us to control, monitor and adjust the water treatment process remotely. We have installed backup power systems, multiple layers of redundancy, enhanced security systems and a new roof. Further, we will be seeking proposals for a new state-of-the-art laboratory which will allow us to expand for future regulatory requirements and perform analyses for unregulated contaminants. We have installed a green roof, an indigenous landscape native to Illinois and a bird sanctuary.

Cunningham: This massive, decades-old plant continues to send about 1 billion gal of safe water to customers in and around the city every day. What experiences or advice can you offer other municipalities for maintaining their facilities?
Spatz: The engineers and planners of JWPP were visionaries. JWPP was constructed in a manner that contemplated not only redundancy within the treatment process but also allows for expansion in the event of population growth. Although we as a city and community are conserving water, as seen by the decline in pumpage of water despite an increase in population, JWPP was constructed in a manner such that when demand increases, additional systems can be installed readily.

Not only planning for the future but also having operating engineers who are certified and have completed training regularly is critical for effective operations. Finally, it is important to have a regularly scheduled preventative maintenance program, along with a robust capital program.

Cunningham: What plant management challenges is the city facing today?
Spatz: First, population growth: It is estimated that the overall population for Chicago and surrounding communities will grow by approximately 1.3 million people by 2050, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Second, legislative challenges: the Chemical Security Act (pending legislation in Congress), unregulated contaminants and pharmaceuticals.

Third, environmental challenges: Conservation cannot be looked at in a silo. Water and electricity go hand in hand. We are in the second year of our MeterSave program, an incentive-based voluntary meter installation program that seeks single-family and two-flat nonmetered homeowners to have a water meter installed free of charge to conserve water.

Cunningham: What upgrades, if any, does the city of Chicago have in the works for JWPP and its other water/wastewater facilities?
Spatz: Our capital plan includes the installation of a new roof for the east side of the JWPP building. We are completing construction of a new chlorine building at the South Water Purification Plant.

We will be converting from steam to electric at our Springfield Pumping Station. Further, in partnership with the DuPage Water Commission, we are in construction at the Lexington Pumping Station [also an AWWA ACE10 facility tour host] for backup generation, a green roof and one of the largest solar panel installations in the Midwest.