When Mark Pelkowski began his career with the Hinsdale water and sewer department, he knew nothing about the village and not much more about water and sewer.

But 20 years later, there's not much Pelkowski doesn't know about the system that keeps water flowing in and out of Hinsdale's homes, businesses and public buildings.

Pelkowski is part of a five-member team charged with maintaining the village's water mains, storm sewers and sanitary sewers. The community pool also falls under Pelkowski's purview.

Along with responding to water main breaks and installing water meters, Pelkowski and the rest of the water and sewer staff keep a constant eye on the quality of water flowing into sinks, showers and washing machines all over Hinsdale.

"We do 21 bacteria samples a month," Pelkowski said of the current testing required by the environmental protection agency. "Every year, there are more."

In his two decades with the village, Pelkowski can't remember a time when residents were ordered to boil water before use - usually the result of a major main break or contamination of the water supply.

But water main breaks happen everywhere, and at all times of the year.

"There's no rhyme or reason," Pelkowski said, but whether they occur on a sunny afternoon or on a snowy Christmas Eve, the water and sewer department responds immediately to get it fixed. While they're not uncommon, Pelkowski said every water main break is different. Figuring out the right way to get things back up and running is one of the many things he likes about his job.

Problem solving is an everyday part of Pelkowski's job. When a resident calls with concerns about a high water bill or a problem with their meter, Pelkowski investigates the cause and starts searching for a solution.

"That's always gratifying in the end," he said.

Along with ingenuity, flexibility is a requirement of the job, Pelkowski said. He and the rest of the crew remain ready to respond to whatever might come up on any given day. Pelkowski said the job's unpredictability has helped to keep it interesting, even after 20 years.

"No two days are ever the same," he said.

Of course, not everything is an emergency. Keeping the water system in shape also involves proper maintenance, including replacement of some of the village's nearly century-old mains. Installed in 1923, the Chicago Avenue water main was recently replaced with a brand new line from the water plant on Symonds Avenue to Stough Street.

"That was a big job," Pelkowski said.

After graduating college with a degree in history, Pelkowski thought he would spend his working years in front of a classroom. Looking back, the now-married father of four said he is far better suited for a job that gets him outside.

"I enjoy the overall ambiance of Hinsdale," Pelkowski said.

July 30 will mark Pelkowski's 20th anniversary with the village. And while he said he's happy to be with the village after all these years, he's not one to celebrate such milestones. But he said he is grateful for the chance to work in Hinsdale, to serve its residents and to have a job he enjoys coming to every day.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean