Ill. EPA warns of water contamination in Sauk Village

July 15, 2012 10:00:00 PM PDT
Thousands of south suburban residents are being warned about water Monday night, and it has nothing to do with the drought.

According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the public drinking water in Sauk Village is contaminated.

The IEPA has been monitoring the water quality in Sauk Village for some time, but it just recently said tests showed an unsafe increase in a chemical called vinyl chloride, which is a carcinogen.

The village now has to warn residents of the danger while local leaders try to come up with a solution. Marilynne Lewis pours water into a glass to show us what it looks like. She has no intention of drinking it, however. She drinks only bottled water. In fact, that's all she gives her pet dog, Pedro, as well. She has lived in Sauk Village for three decades and says there have been problems with the water supply for as long as she can remember.

"Worse, I think, in the last few years than it was when we moved here," said Lewis.

Her home is filled with water bottles for different uses. She says it has become a way of life for many residents in Sauk Village. Sauk Village gets its water from wells in town. The IEPA testing of the water showed a high level of contamination. The village posted a letter on its website.

A similar problem three years ago led the city to close one of its three wells. Now the IEPA considers the remaining two unsafe.

"These are fairly low levels, but vinyl chloride, which they have, is a known carcinogen, so it's important that the people that are drinking the water be aware of that," said Maggie Carson, spokesperson for the IEPA.

The village does treat the well water, but according to the IEPA, there has been trouble successfully treating the water for vinyl chloride.

Residents recently voted to start getting water from Lake Michigan, but it is an expensive proposition that could more than double their water bills. It would also take three to five years to put the infrastructure in place to start drawing the lake water to Sauk Village.

"We do have an emergency plan in place until we get to... the long-range plan for Lake Michigan water, but this has kind of put a damper on, to see the direction that we are going into right now," said Lewis Towers, mayor of Sauk Village.

Village officials have a conference call with the attorney general and the IEPA Tuesday afternoon. They say that should help them get a better idea of how to proceed in the immediate future.

For the long term, the mayor says he is committed to Lake Michigan water, but the village has to find a way to pay for it.


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