LAKE STATION | Art Lazaro is hoping by next year he'll be able to ditch his family's bottled water stockpile.
"It will be nice to get our drinking water out of a faucet," Lazaro said.
Lazaro, of the 2800 block of Union Street, lives across the street from an empty lot where the city's future water treatment plant will be built.
A groundbreaking ceremony on the empty lot Monday marked the start of the first phase of Lake Station's water improvement project, Mayor Keith Soderquist said.
Lazaro, who didn't attend the ceremony, said he's pleased the city is moving forward with the improvements.
He and other residents who tap into Lake Station water are forced to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking because their water "doesn't taste right."
"Right now we're paying double for our water," Lazaro said.
That will change once improvements are completed to the city's aging water plant in about a year, Soderquist said.
"Lack of water quality has made the improvements a priority to address, and here we are today," Soderquist said at the ceremony.
Soderquist said it's time to move forward to replace the city's vintage water system.
"It's long overdue," Soderquist said.
Construction on the first phase will be handled by Thieneman Construction Inc. The Board of Works last year awarded a $7.7 million contract to Thieneman, the lowest of four bids.
The first phase of improvements will include new water supply wells, a new groundwater treatment plant and water main improvements, Soderquist said.
Work should start by late next week and construction crews already are mobilizing, Vince Rock said.
Rock serves as area manager for Thieneman.
"We're ready to go," Rock said.
Most of the work is being done in the first phase, Cara Boyles said.
Boyles is project manager for American Structurepoint, the Indianapolis/South Bend company hired in 2008 by city officials to study and make recommendations on Lake Station's water system.