Latest posts by Nicole Trottie (see all)
- Are Maywood residents footing the water bill for commercial customers? - December 8, 2017
- Decades-long alleged illegal water hookup may account for drain on Maywood’s low-income, minority residents - November 21, 2017
- The hookup - November 16, 2017
L. Nicole Trottie
MAYWOOD | A news tip to the West Suburban Journal about illegal water connections in the Village of Maywood led to the 6-month investigation of two large Maywood-based corporations.
In the wake of alarming reports on the disparity of water rates in low-income and minority communities, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, Forest Park, recently proposed the county intervene. The Cook County Board voted last Wednesday to hold a hearing, based on Boykin’s recommendation, to examine the issue.
Boykin’s district covers Maywood, a community 90 percent and greater African American, with an emerging Latino population. Communities with similar demographics are among those found to have disproportionately high-water bills compared to more affluent and white populations. In Maywood’s case, residents pay an average 20 percent higher water bill than Oak Park and River Forest residents — and boasts the seventh-largest monthly water bill among towns that receive Lake Michigan water and manage their water systems in the area,” according to a Tribune report.
The crux of Maywood’s water issues was thought to be the result of weak infrastructure, plagued by water leaks, strapped by high cost repairs. Maywood is reported to have 38 percent water loss, “due to water leaks”, according to Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins.
Perkins acknowledged the issue of water leaks in a March 2017 interview with West Suburban Journal. However, Perkins also stressed “accountability” is needed. Perkins, who defeated former Mayor Henderson Yarbough, now in her second term, said “The village is having water leaks and when they are identified, public works crews or outside contractors are hired to fix them. “Our problem is accountability. That is our problem. That is a fact,” she added.
Infrastructure v infiltration
Roy Strom, a waste and recycling company, established in 1944, celebrated 50-years at its headquarters located at 1201 Greenwood Avenue in Maywood.
The letter received by West Suburban Journal, alleges the Strom company has at least two illegal water connections at the 1201 Greenwood Ave location. According to the letter, the first alleged illegal connection is located on the west side of the building where the water service enters the building. The alleged connection supply’s water to the sprinkler system and the truck wash rack located in the southwest corner of the 1201 Greenwood Avenue building. The letter states the truck rack is used daily to “wash all the trucks and the equipment seven (7) days a week.”. The first connection is described as hidden. “There is a lot of junk piled in front of it to conceal the illegal connection,” according to the statement.
The letter states the second alleged illegal water connection was made to supply water to the waste transfer station building. “This illegal water connection was made when the building was built in 2000-2002… the second connection was made at the fire hydrant next to the Roy Strom welding shop building.” The second connection, according to the letter supplies water to the “bathroom” and the “odor suppressing misting system in the waste transfer station building.”
The West Suburban Journal gained access to the grounds at Roy Strom property on Thursday, November 17. We documented what appears to be a water connection on the west side of the building, near a gas meter, near the truck rack.
West Suburban Journal spoke to two Roy Strom employees, both verified that a “welding shop building” exits on the premise, per the letters description, next to a fire hydrant. West Suburban Journal was not able to gain access to the welding shop area. The welding shop area is lined by a tall privacy fence, with about seven video surveillance cameras lined in succession, and having signs marked “no trespassing”. West Suburban Journal obtained aerial shots of the welding area from the property of the former Bushwood Golf Practice Center located on Madison St, where we were able to verify the location of the “odor suppressing misting system” which exits in the waste transfer station building adjacent to the noted fire hydrant.
The Roy Strom water bills obtained by West Suburban Journal, under the Freedom of Information Act, were used to calculate sewer and water costs, and water usage over a 3-year period. Based on an analysis, for a 36-months period, dating from 1999 to 2000, the Roy Strom company paid an average monthly sewer bill of $33.60, monthly average use in water 18.52, and average monthly water usage bill of $96.89.
The bills reveal several credits between 1999 and 2000, which could suggest the account had been credited due to over payment. However, the bills do not show a corresponding over-payment to account for the credit.
According to a statement on the company web site, “Roy Strom Refuse and Recycling is an experienced, independent, integrated solid waste management company. We collect, manage, process, and recycle commercial, industrial, and residential solid waste, recyclables, landscape waste, and construction / demolition materials in the Chicago metropolitan area. We are a local Illinois corporation, headquartered in Cook County. Our corporate headquarters is located just minutes away from our customer base, thus have a pulse on the environmental service needs of the business and residential customers we serve.”
Part II of our investigation to report on Roy Strom’s contracts and political ties to Maywood.
West Suburban Journal’s calls to Roy Strom for comment were not returned.