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The James W. Jardine Water Purification Plant in Chicago has applied for federal stimulus funds to build a 'green' roof over its adminstration building.

Towns compete for $260 million in federal funds for $4 billion on water quality plans

by Juliana Hertel
April 09, 2009

Wilmette wants water treatment plant repairs. Chicago wants a green roof for its water purification plant. Morton Grove wants to replace an aging water main.

The costs for these and hundreds of other water quality projects, all eligible for federal stimulus grants, greatly exceed funds available, according to Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA released the list of eligible proposed projects on Tuesday.

“Of course we would like to fund each and every project submitted,” said Maggie Carson, communications manager for the Illinois EPA. The projects made the state list based on their "readiness to proceed" and as a stimulus for creating jobs,  and be an economic boost, Carson said. 

The state list includes 1,641 separate projects addressing drinking and wastewater issues in Illinois communities. The Illinois EPA will collect $260 million for water projects while the estimated costs for the submitted projects surpass $4 billion.

The projects, recently submitted by the state to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency for final approval, will receive money in a first-come-first-served order as the applications are finished and submitted. Approved projects can expect to receive funds as early as the end of April, although no specific date has been set. 

Wilmette has two drinking water treatment projects on the approved list but has submitted several other wastewater improvement plans in attempt to qualify for additional funding, said Bridget Mayerhofer, village director of engineering.

“Anything we felt was eligible for stimulus money, we submitted,” said Mayerhofer. “Whatever help we can get to fund these projects means less burden on the Village of Wilmette.”

Morton Grove doesn't know how the village would fund the two water treatment projects on the lists if they are not approved at the national level, said Joe Dahm, superintendant of the water department.

“It’s great,” said Dahm. “The projects we’ve been working on are a replacement of a water main and the maintenance of a 750 gallon water tank."

Fixing the aged water main, said Dahm, would improve the fire flow, or availability of water in the community in case of a fire. The water tanks, which are 14 years old, contain the village's reserve drinking water and require routine maintenance.

The building of a green roof for the James W. Jardine Water Purification Plant in Chicago is another project awaiting approval. The roof project proposes to use vegetation to absorb and help reduce rain water that overwhelms Chicago’s combined storm and sanitary sewer system.

“The plant needed a roof. And as long as a roof was being put down, the mayor encouraged it to be a green roof,” said Owen Keenan, engineer for HDR, the international firm that designed the roof.

“Some of the sewers here are 100 years old,” Keenan said. “When you reduce the peak load, you get a longer more useful life out of a sewer system and better water quality.”

The U.S. EPA will apply for funding for the projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and seeks to fund all eligible programs.