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Marion mayor fumes over state response to water shortage

Friday, May 18, 2018

* This was a huge deal yesterday as water shortages spread

Rend Lake Conservancy District announced early Friday that 35 hours after a water main break, water is flowing from the Inter-City Water Plant. But things are not back to normal yet.

The district had a breach in a pipe at the plant Wednesday that caused several communities in Southern Illinois to be without water by Thursday.

“The close of one very long day is within sight,” reads a statement from the district distributed by the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency.

A bypass is completed and is now pumping some water into the system while the broken pipe is repaired, according to the statement.

* Things were particularly bad in Marion

Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella said Thursday that schools were shutting down early and that a variety of businesses, including restaurants, hotels, and dental offices, for example, were following suit. Carwashes and laundromats were closed Wednesday. Hospitals have not been evacuated.

“We’re getting no water from Rend Lake right now,” Rinella said. “They’re telling us that they hope to have the repairs done within 24 hours, but even if that is the case, it will probably take another 24 hours or more to fill the tanks and get back to normal production.” […]

“Don’t water your garden or your lawn. Don’t wash your car. Use as little water as possible inside your home, too,” the mayor cautioned.

Local stores like Kroger, Walmart and Sam’s Club were selling out of bottled water rather quickly Thursday. Rinella said weekend shows at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center were canceled and will have to be rescheduled.

More closure announcements are here. The conservancy district serves several dozen towns.

* From the governor yesterday…

Gov. Bruce Rauner is keeping a close watch on the communities impacted by the Rend Lake Water Conservancy Water Disruption. He has been briefed on the situation several times today and issues the following statement:

“The Rend Lake Water Conservancy District, which supplies water to more than 175,000 people in southern Illinois, experienced a major water main break late yesterday afternoon. Efforts by the district to repair the break are on-going at this time. While there currently have been no requests for state assistance, state agencies are actively preparing to provide support needed to ensure the public health and safety of the many communities served by the district.

“Earlier today the Illinois Emergency Management Agency convened a conference call with several state agencies and mutual aid partners to assess the whole community impacts of situation and prepare for potential deployment of state resources t0 impacted communities until the water supply is restored.

“Our primary concern is the well-being of the people affected by this situation. I want to assure everyone affected that the State of Illinois will do everything in our power to ensure public health and safety is protected until this situation is resolved.”

The governor, I’m told, is heading to the region today. The governor’s office says the Marion mayor spoke personally with IEMA Director Robbie Robertson. A retired firefighter, Mayor Rinella had been the city’s finance commissioner and was automatically elevated to the top post when Mayor Bob Butler, who’d held the office for 55 years, retired earlier this year.

* With all that in mind

Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella, in an interview with POLITICO last night, expressed anger that the state hadn’t done more to help his community and surrounding towns served by the Rend Lake Water Conservancy District that are struggling with little or no water since Wednesday’s water main break. Rinella issued an emergency declaration. All schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses were ordered closed by 3 p.m. on Thursday and were not to reopen until further notice.

“It’s just been a nightmare,” Rinella said last night. “It’s very disconcerting that 160,000 people can be out of water and the state of Illinois has got its head stuck in the sand, like they didn’t know it was going on.” […]

To that, Rinella responded: “I’m not going to apologize for the governor. He could have taken it upon himself to make a call down here,” Rinella said. “I would think that if I was a governor and I knew that 160,000 were without water, I would have reached out.”

Stoking frustrations? Someone else did call Rinella on Thursday: Rauner‘s November opponent J.B. Pritzker.

“J.B. Pritzker has contacted me three times today. I know JB’s running for governor, but he was kind of wondering why the state hadn’t reached out to me,” Rinella said.

Nice move by Pritzker, but I’m not sure the governor is expected to personally call all 40-some water-starved mayors in the region. Then again, the squeakiest wheel should always be given early attention.

…Adding… Texts from a pal in southern Illinois…

It’s crazy down here, all the restaurants and most all gas stations closed. Cars coming off I 57 from Mt Vernon to Marion driving around aimlessly looking for gas or food and there is nothing open, no signs no direction. Crazy.

Selling bottles of water for $6 in Franklin County last night. People going crazy rich.

I’ve been driving all morning nothing is open between Mt Vernon and Herrin.

Grocery stores are open

It’s the poor folks that rely on tap water

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - PJ - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    Pritzker is everywhere. I gotta admit, “the best money can buy” strategy is actually working out pretty well for him

  2. - Perrid - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:23 am:

    Rauner reaching out would have changed what exactly? Good PR move on Pritzker’s part, but hollow.

  3. - King Louis XVI - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:25 am:

    –I’m not sure the governor is expected to personally call all 40-some water-starved mayors in the region.–

    Why not?

    For each of those mayors it’s an emergency.

    Given the Quincy Vets Home fiasco one would think that he’d want to lavish a little extra attention on downstate, pretending like he cares.

    November is looming.

  4. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:25 am:

    Rauner’s strength is detached ambivalence.
    Stick with your strength Bruce.

  5. - PublicServant - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    You don’t need money to do what Pritzker did, just empathy. Something in short supply with Rauner.

  6. - okgo - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    He used that “no requests for assistance” line last year during the failed response to the flooding in Lake County. I don’t know how you can say that with a straight face when it’s blatantly clear people need help. Stop the doubletalk and figure out a way to help people in an emergency situation. You can at least say the Governor is consistent in his failed responses.

  7. - Texas Red - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:27 am:

    The Rend Lake Conservancy District is organized and funded as a unit of local govt. They operate on revenues that are primarily generated via a property tax levy and fee’s and sales on water. As far as I can see they receive no State funding this seems like totally local issue. Water mains break all the time and the State seems to be fine in letting local resources fix them. The Mayor should be directing his angst at the Conservancy District rather that Springfield.

  8. - 47th Ward - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:29 am:

    ===The governor, I’m told, is heading to the region today.===

    Is he bringing his sleeping bag?

  9. - Henry Francis - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:30 am:

    It has been clear that the Guv is not interested in running a government. He wants to run a campaign. That is essentially all he has done while he has been in office - campaign.

    Events like this, where strong leadership is needed from the head of state government, make clear what a failure the Guv is at his job. Also think back to his initial indifference to the flooding in Lake County last year.

    The only time stuff like this gets his attention is when it starts to affect his constant campaign.

  10. - RNUG - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:31 am:

    I’m down here on the northern edge of the area affected by the break. Yesterday the big businesses and convience stores were bringing in semiloads of bottled water.

  11. - don the legend - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:32 am:

    “Another emergency, really? I hate these things. What’s wrong with these people? Can’t they fix their own problems? Me and my friends never have nearly as many problems as these type of people do. Such a hassle.”
    Fake Governor Rauner

  12. - RNUG - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:33 am:

    == Is he bringing his sleeping bag? ==

    He better bring bolled water and a Porta-Potty.

  13. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:34 am:

    I would have the head of IEMA and the National Guard at the site of the pipe break asking how they could speed repairs and supply water to critical facilities.

  14. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:40 am:

    Forget IEMA, Rauner should have dispatched Durkin and Brady. All they do is carry Rauner’s water.

  15. - RNUG - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:41 am:

    == at the site of the pipe break asking how they could speed repairs ==

    Irrelevant at this point; they have a bypass in place and are pumping water. Will take at least a day to get back to normal. They are still working on tepsiring the

  16. - RNUG - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:42 am:

    on repairing the initial break

  17. - Turn it up - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:43 am:

    ===The governor, I’m told, is heading to the region today.===

    He better bring his own water.

  18. - 360 Degree TurnAround - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 10:45 am:

    Calling shows you care. That can be the salve that helps local officials in stressful situations.

  19. - Seriously? - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:11 am:

    SO - what many people here wont know unless you’re in public safety, is that Marion’s own emergency management team, Williamsom County and other surrounding counties spent years been stalling the state’s efforts to enhancing emergency response plans at the local level. Those plans would address these issues.

    Those southern IL counties actually asked the state to not to ask them to have any emergency plan requirements, but let them be on their own and do what they want. Now they want to complain?

    I know because im a central IL public safety official, and I was at the meetings. So now it’s all political, huh? Disgusting. And shame on those local emergency responders for failing to be ready, and having no clue how to handle this.

  20. - Mason born - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:19 am:

    I’m not sure that the State could’ve helped anything in this case. It’s a busted line Rend Lake had the equipment to fix it, not sure sending a politician would’ve sped it up. It wasn’t a simple fix a 36″ is a big honking pipe going to take some time to fix.

    It’s a side effect of having regional water companies, there just are fewer alternative supplies to interconnect to.

  21. - Chris Widger - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:30 am:

    ==Forget IEMA, Rauner should have dispatched Durkin and Brady. All they do is carry Rauner’s water.==

    That’s clever–don’t forget this one come Golden Horseshoe time.

  22. - A Jack - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:31 am:

    The state could have helped by offering the National Guard to either take Water Buffaloes (big tanks on wheels that hold potable water) or trucks to carry bottled water to the affected residents. After Hurricane Katrina we did that for the residents of New Orleans. It took only a couple days to mobilize and get down to New Orleans.

    The last I checked the Rend Lake area was much closer and likely has Illinois National Guard armories right there in the area. Such action may not have been needed in this situation, but it doesn’t sound like it was even offered.

  23. - Smalls - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:39 am:

    So it is all of the sudden the state’s problem that the local communities don’t invest into their water system? A single pipe broke and it cut off water to 40 communities? Are you kidding me? How about all of those communities contribute to an adequate system. I can understand if it was 105 degrees outside and people were facing the risk of dying, then I can see why IEMA should assist. But if you can’t live without running water when the weather is 75 degrees for 3 days, then we have bigger problems.

  24. - 47th Ward - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:50 am:

    ===then I can see why IEMA should assist.===

    Glad everything is OK where you are Smalls. If you’re not being affected by this, why the heck should you care?

    Nice compassion for your fellow man.

  25. - Claud Peppers - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    Heck of a job Raunny.
    IEMA in the past had warehouses full of bottled water.

  26. - theCardinal - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 11:59 am:

    Spot on Smalls …perhaps the mayor should have called the local EMA coordinator and then State and asked for assistance? As a matter or protocol thats how its done, instead of running in circle with hair on fire. Checkl Being a Leader Part 1 manual. Laying blame at the moment does no one any good. Jeez what will he do when the next New Madrid quake hits?

  27. - 47th Ward - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 12:01 pm:

    ===IEMA in the past had warehouses full of bottled water.===

    And IDOT has those electronic message signs. Perhaps they could alert travelers that there is a water emergency that has forced some business closures in the area.

    It’s not like they need to call up the Guard, but there is plenty the state can do to help. Also, it’s their job to help. It’s why IEMA exists.

  28. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 12:27 pm:

    I can tell you from experience that Bob Butler woulda driven Rauner crazy until Butler got what he needed. JRT made a trip after their Memorial Day tornado just to let people pound the table and pound back on the State officials that had responsibilities. You know, showing up is half the grade and all that.

  29. - Saluki - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    Rinella is a windbag that is going to get blown out of the water in the spring 2019 election. This is the same Rinella that trashes surrounding communities in radio interviews, and only got the job because Butler resigned. Color me uninspired by Rinella’s temper tantrum. What was Rauner supposed to do, jump in the hole and start welding water pipes?

  30. - Anonymous - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 2:44 pm:

    Was that Bruce the Plumber that just buzzed by me on his Harley.? Tall guy. Bibs. Plunger in his back pocket.

  31. - Peoria Citizen - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 2:44 pm:

    Let’s see . . .

    Failed to sign a budget for 2 years…
    Failed to call community leaders in state of emergency
    Forgets, or conveniently buries truths about Rivian Automotive…

    If he doesn’t want to be governor, why does he continue to campaign for the job? SMH

  32. - RNUG - Friday, May 18, 18 @ 3:33 pm:

    Things are back to semi-normal in Mt Vernon. There are conservation measures in place at the moment but they should be lifted in a day or two.

  33. - jojogunne - Wednesday, May 23, 18 @ 9:00 am:

    This is to address the post made by Saluki. How in hell would you have any idea how mayor Rinella would respond. Sounded like a personel attack on a fine man that will do everything necessary for Marion to be sound and solid.

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