Sauk Village water woes | Village provides $50,000 in bottled water -- so far

July 31, 2012 (SAUK VILLAGE, Ill.)

Water doesn't come cheap. In the past week, Sauk Village has spent close to $50,000 providing bottled water to its residents. They show ID, put their limit of three gallons a day in the car, and go home.

"For what we pay in taxes it's very irritating," Audrey Christensen, Sauk Village resident, said.

The process will be the routine for Sauk Village residents at least until portable air strippers are operational at the village's two well-water pumping stations. The air strippers, and all the plumbing that precedes it, are designed to remove most of the vinyl chloride that has been detected in the well water supply. That chemical is a known carcinogen -- and while its measured levels are not considered by the EPA to be dangerously high, they're nonetheless unacceptable.

The Illinois EPA will pay for the cost of using the strippers for the better part of a month, but after that, Sauk Village must pick up the tab. But the town doesn't have the money, and the notion of passing the cost on to townspeople is not sitting well.

"The Post says it's gonna be $300 every two months- that's crazy. For water. We can't live. The economy, half the town is jobless now," Marlene Pierson, Sauk Village resident, said.

"This should have been addressed and taken care of before we're in the critical stage we're in now," Darrell Chillers, Sauk Village, said.

The village has known of the well water contamination for three years. Residents voted this year to replace the wells with Lake Michigan water -- but that's years and some $20 million away.

"Money we don't have," Henrietta Turner, village manager, said. Turner said the village hopes to borrow or receive grants toward getting Lake Michigan water.

So the next step is to wait for the air strippers to remove the vinyl chloride from the well water, but even then, many residents say they'll opt not to drink the water.

"No, I'm not gonna drink the water. I don't trust anything they've said so far," Sheila Zinn, Sauk Village resident, said.

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