Blackhawk Acres residents can connect to Rockton water at no charge


A $1.5 million grant will pay to connect residents of unincorporated Rockton to the Village water system at no charge. The EPA has found contaminants in their well water, dating back decades. To take advantage of the grant, these residents would have to annex into the Village of Rockton and begin paying Rockton taxes. If they don't do it now, Village officials say it would cost the residents thousands of dollars to connect later. Opt-in and out letters have been sent to residents via mail with a return deadline of May 20. The Blackhawk Avenue Area New Water Main and Service Connections Project will begin in the early fall.

Addressing PFAS Contamination in Rockton Township

Discussions regarding the proposed water main and service connections project in the unincorporated Blackhawk Blvd. and Watts Avenue area of Rockton Township have been ongoing since last spring. Tuesday, April 30, 2024 was the latest Rockton Village Municipal Center meeting. Village President John Peterson provided a comprehensive progress report since these meetings began.

Last spring, Rockton Township Supervisor Paul Williams and Rockton Village President John Peterson held a public forum at the Rockton Township office. Representatives from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Winnebago County Health Department were also in attendance.

The Winnebago County Health Department's Public Administrator, Dr. Sandra Martell, emailed Peterson and Williams regarding the PFAS contamination found after conducting tests on private wells in the Blackhawk Acres subdivision. Tests have also found elevated levels of heavy metals and VOCs in the area.

Funding for PFAS cleanup

Illinois State Representative John Cabello had a phone conference with both leaders. Cabello has secured one hundred percent funding under the Clean Water Act.

"We've secured a forgivable loan, essentially a grant, allowing residents to connect to village water," Peterson announced, highlighting the project's positive impact. "This is a significant step towards ensuring clean and safe water for our community."

The proposed $1.5 million project will pay for evacuating the private well, the meter, and the hookup to the Village water, without the homeowner incurring additional costs. The project aims to facilitate community members' access to clean and potable water without causing any financial burden.

Property tax increase, but no PFAS

Peterson informed residents that if they annex into the Village of Rockton to hook up to Village water, their property taxes will go up an estimated $200 per year. "I personally don't mind paying an extra $200 a year if it means no PFAS in our wells. If you annex into the Village, you will get services, too," he added.

"It will be a pretty big project, and not everybody is going to want to do it," Peterson said.

Voluntary Participation

Peterson emphasized that residents can decide whether to opt in or out by signing a letter. "You don't have to annex into the Village. You have a choice," he said. But Peterson added that a PFAS test by itself can cost up to $1,000.

Legal implications of non-compliance

At the March meeting, someone asked what would happen if someone chose not to hook up. Martell answered, "If the levels are not properly maintained, they could condemn your home. You need a potable water source."

During the following meeting, a resident asked for clarification on Martell's previous warning. Environmental Health Director Todd Marshall stated, "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards never go down." Marshall added that the average cost to hook up a water main to a house can run between $9,000 and $15,000 if done after the fact, possibly years later. The officials explained the level assessment and the necessary benchmarks to meet the regulations.

Superfund and Chemtool concerns

At the most recent meetings, Peterson read emails from residents. Some doubted that there has been long-lasting effects from the former Beloit Corp Superfund site, while others expressed concerns about any possible lingering effects from the Chemtool fire. Others voiced support for hooking up to the village water.

Addressing potential health concerns

Dr. Sandra Martell advised at the last meeting that these residents also consider installing a reverse osmosis system. This type of filtration would help ensure clean water availability even before the home is connected to Rockton water.

"PFAS may live in your homes for years and could affect a person's body, which is very concerning," Martell said.

Martell strongly advised that anyone with children use at least one type of filtration system.

PFAS - Perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl - are chemicals made by humans. Since the 1950s, many consumer products and industrial processes have utilized these chemicals.

PFASs have properties that resist heat, grease, and water. There are thousands of types of PFAS, and they are known as forever chemicals.

There is no way to detect exactly where PFAS contamination comes from. PFAS can exist in a Teflon pan.

The Clean Water Act provisions

The Clean Water Act establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

This comprehensive legislation attempts to prevent or limit human and environmental exposure to PFAS-related chemicals from various pathways and spur the cleanup of PFAS-related contamination.

Additionally, the Clean Water Act the Act addresses airports' Superfund liability concerns. It also prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source into navigable waters unless otherwise authorized under the Act.

Looking forward

Meeting attendees have received informational sheets outlining details on water, sewer, and garbage rates and rules. Another sheet includes frequently asked questions about connecting to the water system.

Village Trustee Justin York said, "The team involved in this has done an amazing job. It is abnormal to give 100 percent coverage, and I would like to commend them. The Village is doing the right thing for those who want to annex into the Village and for our neighbors."

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