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John Homan: On surviving the water crisis of 2018 -- kind of

 
By John Homan
jhoman@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 5/31/2018 4:48 PM

None of us give much thought to our utilities until we no longer have them at our disposal.

Without a doubt, the biggest news story this past week was the water crisis here in Southern Illinois. There was a break in a main distribution pipe at the Rend Lake Conservancy District, which caused the system to shut down and sent several communities scrambling for answers.

The water district serves 60 towns and a combined 160,000 residents. There were some communities like Carterville and Johnston City that ran out of water altogether and several others like Marion, Herrin, Mount Vernon and Du Quoin that were hanging on by the seat of their pants, praying that the line would be repaired quickly before their water supply ran out altogether.

Marion's problem was so acute that Mayor Anthony Rinella and city leaders imposed not only a water conservation edict, but also asked myriad businesses, including car washes, laundries, restaurants and hotels, to shut their doors from Thursday evening until Saturday morning.

That shutdown helped ensure that water would be available at critical needs locations like the hospital, nursing homes and assisted living centers, as well as for firefighting purposes.

While some businesses missed out on thousands of dollars in revenue, the decision to order the shutdown was a prudent one, even if unpopular.

The Marion situation reignited the conversation that the city needs an alternative water source in the worst way. Sugar Creek was supposed to be that alternative several years ago, but environmental concerns put the brakes on the lake project. Last week's water crisis, however, may ultimately lead to positive change.

Du Quoin city leaders caught a break. They asked for and quickly received help from Perry County neighbor, Pinckneyville, for a supplemental water supply to keep the tank from emptying.

Du Quoin Mayor Guy Alongi said he, too, asked businesses to shut down for about a 15-hour period to help conserve water. He said that even with conservation efforts, the tank would have been drained if not for Pinckneyville stepping up and funneling water from its city lake north of town. Tamaroa also helped shoot the water Du Quoin's way.

Kudos to Mayor Robert Spencer, who never hesitated to lend a helping hand.

"Isn't that what we should do," he asked? "Help one another?"

Indeed, Mr. Mayor. Indeed.