June 1, 2021

Small Town’s Giant Water System Quenches Needs of Neighboring Municipalities

31st St. Pump Station in McCook, Ill.

Before shot of McCook’s 31st St. Pump Station.

In the western suburbs of Chicago lies McCook, Ill, a tiny town that was built on large industry. With a population of only 250, some might be surprised that it was once the home to some of the largest manufacturers in the last 100 years.

Electro-Motive Diesel – EMD (now owned by Caterpillar’s Progress Rail Services division), which was at one time the largest employer in the State of Illinois, manufactured a variety of locomotives for railroad corporations in the country and worldwide. Other manufacturers such as ALUMAX (formerly Reynolds Aluminum), UOP, Vulcan Materials, who were also major producers of a variety of materials for the country, also called McCook, Ill their home.

As one could imagine, factories of these sizes required millions of gallons of water all day and every day to keep their facilities running efficiently and effectively. In fact, McCook, a long-time consumer as well as a customer of the City of Chicago’s treated Lake Michigan water, had to have TWO connections for their water volume needs. Each facility had the capability of pumping millions of gallons per day in order to meet the daily needs of McCook’s system.

The early 1980s was the last time that McCook had invested much into the updating of their “lifeblood”—their water system. And while everything seemed to be status quo, the mid-1990s came with some unexpected changes.

These large factories, which had once relied on McCook and their water system for their freshwater needs, either relocated or downsized. And the once essential million gallons per day water system was now oversized and unfit for such a small municipality.

As Village officials started to hear more about local communities and the challenges they were having with their existing well systems, McCook saw an opportunity to shift their customer base from industrial to surrounding municipalities. After all, re-selling water to these towns would create an opportunity to have a strong and steady revenue stream.

In 2018, Metropolitan Industries and the McCook Water Commissioner, Rich Paeth, started discussions about making improvements to the over 35 years-old pump stations. Paeth knew that the project would be a major undertaking and it would not be an all-at-once situation.

Metropolitan recommended a staged approach, which in the past, had proven beneficial to many municipalities who had to rely on outside revenue sources to fund their water system improvement projects.

The stepped strategy that Metropolitan developed also addressed Paeth’s hot items while creating an opportunity to replace obsolete items as the budget would allow.

The project, which began in 2018, started at the 39th Street pump station, a major connection to the primary water source. The pump station, which house pumps that were over 30 years old, had one pump down and was in dire need of control upgrades.

The 200 hp vertical turbine pump utilized the 1960s “hydraulic clutch” technology for variable speed control of three of the four pumps at that station. Working with contractor partners, Metropolitan removed the first of the 200 hp vertical pumps and motors and existing starters and replaced them with a new Hydroflo pump, new 200 hp G.E. premium efficient/inverter duty VHS motor, installed a new ABB variable frequency drive and rebuilt the existing 12” ClaValve control/check valve.

Next, the Village had their SCADA integrator reconfigure the system for the new VFD controlled pump and put the first pump online. From there, an annual upgrade plan was put into effect so that by 2020 three of four of the pumps and controls at the 39th Street pump station would be upgraded.

Starting in 2020 and continuing into 2021, pump and control improvements began being made at the 31st Street pump house/connection to Chicago’s Lake water, as well as continuous improvements to the main distribution pump station at their five million gallons worth of reservoirs and water distribution systems.

Once 39th Street work is completed, McCook can continue to improve their second feed from Chicago and ultimately, they can finish “future” improvements at their main pump station and reservoir complex at Egandale to an upgraded and updated system that will continue to operate reliably for decades.

Fully updating a water distribution system as it evolves from water supplier for local industries to regional water supplier for neighboring communities requires time and thoughtful planning. Metropolitan knows all too well that a steady approach to updating worn infrastructure can prove beneficial in the long run. And while the ultimate goal for Metropolitan and customers alike is to get them up and running on a best-in-class water system, fiscal responsibility and project feasibility are essential factors as well. Metropolitan knows it’s the sum of all parts that makes a strong project.

New Installed Pumps as Part of Staged Upgrade in McCook, Ill.

Three of four newly installed pumps for McCook. Metropolitan can work with municipalities to upgrade equipment as time and budget allows.

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