QUINCY — Gov. Bruce Rauner said the state will partner with the city of Quincy to dig a new deep well as a water source for the city.
The well will provide cooler, cleaner water than what is now brought in from the Mississippi River and lower the risk of Legionella bacteria for the Illinois Veterans Home and everyone else using the water.
“We're committed to bringing the best quality water to the residents in Quincy and our heroes at the veteran's home,” Rauner said during a news conference at the riverfront on Wednesday.
“We think it will take about a year to complete (the well). We hope construction can start this summer.”
The Illinois EPA will provide $3 million through a development grant. The city will match that amount.
Rauner said the better water source will lower the risk for everyone in the city of contracting Legionnaire's disease, by limiting the risk of Legionella bacteria. It will be especially helpful in eliminating the risk at the Illinois Veterans Home, where 13 people have died and dozens have been sickened by the bacteria since 2015.
“Switching to a ground water system has been a part of Quincy's long-range plans since 1981,” Mayor Kyle Moore said.
Moore added that preparing for use of a well will eliminate the need to do about $600,000 in updates at the water purification plant. Well water also will be less expensive, with fewer bacterial and chemical treatments needed.
Director of Utilities Jeffrey Conte said the well will be about 100 to 120 feet deep, reaching down to bedrock, with lots of sand and gravel acting as a natural filter for the aquifer.
“Switching to a groundwater supply simplifies treatment by providing a physically and chemically consistent raw water, and protects the water supply against chemical spills,” Conte said.
Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina said part of the agency's mission is to help community's protect water safety.
Mike Hoffman, a senior advisor to Rauner on the Illinois Veterans Home, said the water source is one of four initiatives coming together to help make the home safer. Hoffman said other plans call for replacing all plumbing at the home, buying and rehabilitating the Sycamore Healthcare building to provide temporary housing for veterans and construction of new facilities.
Rauner announced in a March 15 visit to the Illinois Veterans Home that new “ultramodern buildings” should be built at the campus and that the state sought proposals for a master planning contract.
The new state-of-the-art facility would total 300,000 square feet and house 340 residents.
Rauner called on lawmakers to support Senate Bill 3611, filed by Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy. It would provide appropriation authority for about $230 million “to build a new world-class facility.” He said the new buildings would have rooms to fit the needs of today's veterans.
“There's no reason they can't pass this,” Rauner said, adding that many lawmakers have made public statements of support for upgrades at the home.
Hoffman said the federal government is expected to pay for about 65 percent of the cost of a new facility.
Another stand-alone bill would free up between $15 million and $16 million in federal money that the state already has on hand.
Hoffman said if lawmakers allow a design-build approach to the veterans home construction project it could speed completion by six months to a year.
“When you do design-build you get one contractor and they design it and then they're on the hook to build it to specifications,” Hoffman said.
“If you got the other way, with design-bid-build, you get that bidding process that can be six months to a year long.”