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Dixmoor officials hand out bottled water as main breaks enter third day

Three days after a water main break occurred in Dixmoor, triggering a boil order for the east side of town, village leaders said Wednesday workers were on pace to have the third and final main break repaired and hoped the boil order would end Thursday morning.

At 3 a.m. Monday, public works officials learned of a water main break at West 143rd Street and Paulina Street. Two more breaks were discovered over the next two days, one at 143rd Street and Page Avenue and the other on the 14100 block of Winchester Avenue.

“Two out of the three are fixed right now,” Dixmoor Mayor Fitzgerald Roberts said Wednesday morning, anticipating the third to be repaired that afternoon.

The final repair was taking longer because there were technically two breaks at Winchester Avenue — although the city refers to them as one because they were a couple feet apart. As soon as the first break at Winchester Avenue was fixed, the water system was turned back on which applied pressure to the pipe down the line and caused a second break, said Village Trustee Teatroy Webster.

One of the reasons the main breaks took days to fix is because this work comes with a multitude of risks, Roberts explained. If they aren’t careful, employees at companies such as Calumet City Plumbing, which repaired the third break at Winchester Avenue, could accidentally hit a sewer pipe, electrical wires or gas lines.

“I tell them ‘Hey, just be safe, take your time.”

While the recent cold is partially to blame for the string of breaks that began Monday, Roberts points the finger elsewhere.

“The number one thing is the aging of the pipe system,” he said. “Come this spring, we’ve got new piping and stuff that’s coming in. New infrastructure coming in. That was planned before the breaks.”

He expects all of the major pipes to be replaced by sometime in 2025.

The village continues to pass out bottled water for residents at the community center at West 143rd Street and Paulina Street, near where the first main break occurred. They passed out almost two pallets of bottled water in two hours Wednesday.

But even without the boil order, one resident said she doesn’t drink the tap water anyway.

“Since I’ve been living here — I’ve been here for 17 years — I’ve never drank the water from the faucet,” said Latanya Tolefree, 63, adding she didn’t tap water when she lived in Chicago.

Webster nodded in agreement confirming that he, too, sticks to bottle water.

Tolefree lives two doors down from the 3-foot holes that were dug so workers could fix the Winchester Avenue break. She said she has a variety of problems with Dixmoor officials, including public works no longer taking checks as a method of payment for water bills due to a string of forged checks.

But regarding the water main breaks, Tolefree said the city is “doing the best that they can with what they have to work with.”

The last time there were significant water main breaks in Dixmoor, the Village Board agreed on a standard emergency response that Roberts said he enacted, and would included in his report at Thursday’s Village Board meeting.

hsanders@chicagotribune.com