Water Plant Improvement Projects

Upgrading Waukegan's Water Filtration Plant After Nearly a Century of Service


The Water Filtration Plant, or Water Plant, opened in 1928 when the City's population was near 25,000.   Waukeganhistorical picture of water plant 's Water utility history started before that, however, with the first public well available at the corner of Washington and Genesee Streets in 1849, followed by artesian wells used for the public water supply with water being delivered through wooden pipes in 1888.

Operation of the first lake intake pipe and the pump station started in 1895, with chlorination of the water starting 17 years later, and new pumps with 'electric' drives added 13 years later in 1925.

Throughout the years since the opening of the Water Plant, a number of other major system improvements including but not limited to:

  • 1952    Fluoridation of water
  • 1953    High Service Pump #4 added: 7.5 millions of gallons per day (mgd)
  • 1965    Waukegan-Gurnee feeder mains added
  • 1966    New 48-in diameter concrete intake, 1.1 miles into Lake, 40 mgd capacity
  • 1967    Major plant expansion - new raw water pump station with four pumps, 24 mgd and two new high service pumps
  • 1990s   Filter surface wash system added
  • 2001     Filter-to-waste system added
  • 2007     Sludge storage and dewatering system

Now, a capital and operation improvement project is underway, based on an outside needs assessment completed in 2017. The project includes the reconstruction of the 93-year-old filter and considerable work on the east and west reservoirs.  Some project challenges include lead-based paint assessment and removal, obsolete underdrain system, and the age of the facility. 

lead abatementfilters to be replaced 2019 2020

Reconstruction of the filtering system including updating technology, such as new gas chlorinators from 1968, to replacement of the filter pipes and new west bay filters with testing starting up in February 2020.

gas chlorinator 1968 with a man in a suit adjusting the equipment1928 filter pipe gallery
1928 west bay filters2019 west bay filters

testing newly installed west bay filters

A Department of Energy "Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant" (EECBG) grant was used to replace existing motors for pumps and other water purifying and pumping equipment. This will reduce energy use and decrease the optional cost of large pumping.

Equipment replacement due to obsolescence, non-performance, regulatory requirement, and redundancy of service was necessary. These devices will decrease the operating and maintenance costs necessary to keep the over 50-year-old equipment functioning properly.  

replacing old equipment, pips overhanging, welding taking place

new equipment being installed, people with hardhats on ladders and below, 3 story project
large hook at top for moving new equipment, winch, people with hardhats below


Improvements continue with work underway on the West Reservoir, now that the East Reservoir is complete.  Work includes drilling for de-watering wells to pump groundwater from around the reservoir to prevent concrete from floating; removing soil by current vents to adjust for the size of the new vents and installing new vents; removing topsoil over the reservoir to inspect the concrete for damage; and preparing the top to install the roofing membrane.

The West Reservoir is 95 years old and holds 1.8 million gallons of water.  
outside drilling for de-watering wells to pump groundwater around from the West reservoir removing soil around existing ventssmall digger removing topsoil near vent


west reservoir excavation underwayRemoval of the topsoil from the top of the West reservoir for inspection

All work is being completed while the Waukegan Water Plant continues 24-hour operations, supplying the highest quality water to Waukegan and surrounding areas including Beach Park, Green Oaks, Gurnee, and Park City.