Jacksonville Emergency Water Supply from Lake Mauvaisterre can now be treated more efficiently

By Blake Schnitker on April 11 at 4:10pm

The treatment of Jacksonville’s emergency drinking water supply is now easier following a multi-year watershed project conducted on Lake Mauvaisterre.

Members of the Jacksonville city council heard a presentation earlier this week regarding the watershed project from the co-owner of North Water Consulting Jeff Boeckler. Local aldermen listened to the presentation during Monday night’s workshop session prior to the city council meeting.

As for what Boeckler’s presenteation consisted of, he explains that the project aimed to reduce the amount of certain nutrients and sediments in Lake Mauvaisterre.

“I presented a summary of the two and a half year Lake Mauvaisterre Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Initiative. It was started in 2015 through an Illinois EPA Section 319 grant to the tune of roughly 650,000 dollars, of which the Illinois EPA provided sixty percent of that as grant funds. The idea was to target nutrient and sediment reduction practices to the areas of the watershed that needed it the most/to keep the nutrients and sediment out of the lake, which are what are causing the lake to be impaired.”

Boeckler explains how and why this project was initiated.

“Sedimentation has always been a problem in the lake. So back in 2010, I believe, what was called a ‘Total Maximum Daily Load’ plan was developed, and that plan is in response to the lake being impaired for a particular pollutant. At that time it was impaired for, I believe: total phosphorous, total nitrogen, and then total suspended solids. And… what a TMDL is is a calculation of the amount of a pollutant that a water body can assimilate and still meet the standard.”

In terms of what exactly this watershed project does for the city of Jacksonville and Lake Mauvaisterre, Boeckler says that it makes the treatment process easier for when the city has to pull drinking water during emergency situations.

“Potentially, even though it’s hard to say directly, but the idea… So it’s not going to necessarily make your tap water better, but what it might do is it may make the treatment process, or very likely will make the treatment process of that drinking water, more efficient and less costly/allow the state to save money. The thing is, right now your main water comes from the Illinois River. It doesn’t come from… Lake Mauvaisterre is a backup water supply. So really, only in times of drought or when it’s an emergency would you actually be drawing water out of Lake Mauvaisterre for drinking water. And when that time does come and that water needs to go into the treatment plant, if there’s less turbidity in it, less nutrients in it, there’s just less treatment you have to do to get it up to the standards to go into the tap.”

As Boeckler explained during his presentation, the amount of grant money the city got for this project was just over $687-thousand dollars, yet the total project cost came in slightly under that amount, at slightly more than $685-thousand dollars. Work on the Lake Mauvaisterre Watershed project started in October of 2015, and all of the construction was completed in December of 2017.