MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel City Commissioners will be voting on how to move forward with upgrading the water treatment plant in the near future. There will also be a public hearing set soon which will give the community a chance to hear the options available to the commissioners.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has made recommendations that will require that commissioners to so something to upgrade the current facility. "There are no health or safety issues with the water plant," said commissioner Justin Dulgar. "The issue is with the facility itself and the construction of the plant," Dulgar explained.

The water plant was originally built in the early 1930s, then renovated in the 1990s. "In order to fix what the EPA is recommending, we would have to bull-doze some areas and rebuild," said Dulgar.

"The EPA makes recommendations, basically telling the city that in the near future you need to start looking at how to fix this. Eventually if you do not comply with the recommendations, they turn into violations, which becomes very expensive," said Mount Carmel City Clerk Rudy Witsman.

Wabash Valley Water Commission met last week and agreed to move forward, with each community conducting public hearings, and each city's governing board voting on their participation in the commission — which includes permission to move forward with the application to seek funding for the $20.4 million regional water plant.

To move forward with the full application for funding of the regional water plant option, communities of Mount Carmel, Albion, Grayville and Keensburg must vote to stay in the water commission and move forward with the project. "We can not move forward as a water commission on the regional water plant without the approval of city boards of the four communities," said Dulgar. "If we vote to move forward with the regional water plant option, it does not lock us in. We are just agreeing to move forward with trying to get funding through grants. We can still opt out later if funding doesn't come through," said Dulgar.

The original engineering report from Lamac Engineering estimated total cost of the project at $18.5 million, but, after a review from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it was recommended to increase the operating and maintenance costs, as well as the contingency funds for the project. The new total estimated cost for the regional water plant is $20.4 million.

The proposed regional water plant would provide water to all four communities, with the possibility of letting other communities come on board also.

The water commission be responsible for operating and maintaining the facility.

If the commission gets approval from all four governing bodies, they will apply for a USDA grant. Once the communities agree to move forward, all costs incurred will be the responsibility of the water commission, unless a community bows out. Then, they would be responsible for paying back a portion of the money spent.

"We are currently getting estimates on what it would cost the city to fix the current water plant, based off the EPA's recommendations. We are also getting estimates on what it would cost to build a brand new plant just for Mount Carmel. Once we have these figures, city commissioners can compare and see what is in the best interest of the community, moving forward," Dulgar said.

Dulgar wants to see the community come to the public meeting to provide input on the proposed options. "We want to hear what the public thinks about our options. We have to decide soon on which way to move forward, and it is important for us to hear what the community thinks about how we need to proceed," Dulgar said.

Witsman said once the figures for the three options for the city are compiled, a public hearing date will be set. The water commission wants a final answer from all four communities within a month.

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