Lake County Board Chairman Lawlor gets dirty for new cable TV program

People long have said politics is a dirty job.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor knows that better than most.

Lawlor donned a water-resistant jumpsuit, a safety helmet and thigh-high boots Monday to help clean solid waste out of a basin at a water treatment plant in Vernon Hills. The work will be televised as part of a new program that goes behind the scenes of some of Lake County government's dirtiest jobs.

"A lot of people don't know what county government does," Lawlor said before his descent into the stinky pit. "By coming out and getting my hands dirty, I think we're showing them what Lake County does in a very interesting way."

The Vernon Hills Republican's adventures in filth are inspired by the Discovery Channel TV show "Dirty Jobs," which is hosted by Mike Rowe.

Each job will be filmed by the county communications department, and they'll air on the county's local cable network, LCTV, and online.

Monday's visit to the New Century Town Water Reclamation Facility was Lawlor's second dirty job. In the first, he helped clear a clogged sewer pump.

That episode debuted on YouTube Monday morning.

At the treatment plant, Lawlor spent about 10 minutes with public works department workers in the 700,000-gallon aeration basin, which was drained of water for the task.

The dark-brown muck consisted of human waste, rags, wrappers and other debris flushed down toilets in the Vernon Hills and Mundelein areas.

"You get money, you get all kinds of stuff," plant supervisor Michael K. Grinnell said.

The accumulated solid waste must be removed from the tanks every three years to keep the equipment working properly, Public Works Director Peter Kolb said.

Lawlor used a rake-sized squeegee to scrape the gunk from the bottom of the pit and push it to a vacuum that sucked it over to a tank on a nearby truck.

It didn't take long for Lawlor to get the grime on his boots and protective clothing.

"Anyone want a hug?" he joked. There were no takers.

The waste will be dried and then dumped in a landfill, officials said.

Although the muck was pungent, Lawlor said it didn't smell as bad as he anticipated.

Still, it wasn't a pleasant experience.

"You're slogging around ... in things that people flush down their toilets," he said.

With two jobs under his belt, Lawlor said he'd like to expand the program to include tasks that are difficult but not necessarily dirty. Visits to the county jail and the coroner's office are on his wish list. A ride-along with police officers could make for a good show, too, he said.

  Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor visited a water treatment plant Monday to experience one of the region's dirty jobs. His work will be televised on the county's local cable network, LCTV. Bob Chwedyk/
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