University Park mayor condemns water company for allegedly delaying lead abatement

Aqua Illinois says situation is improving

ByABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Saturday, September 26, 2020
University Park mayor calls for swift lead abatement in water
The University Park mayor condemned the village's water provider, Aqua Illinois, for allegedly delaying lead abatement.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- The mayor of University Park Saturday morning alleged the village's water provider has been delaying lead abatement and demanded that Aqua Illinois act faster.

Now, Mayor Joseph E. Roudez III says Aqua Illinois will pay for the elevated lead levels found int he water there.

"If University Park were an affluent white suburb, instead of an African American one, our water would not still be lead-contaminated," Mayor Roudez III said.

He is making several demands form the water company, including pipe replacement, monthly water reports and compensation for affected families.

The University Park mayor condemned the village's water provider, Aqua Illinois, for allegedly delaying lead abatement.

Some residents there are now in their 15th month without safe drinking water.

Aqua Illinois discovered elevated lead levels in June 2019 and said it's due to customers' internal plumbing.

RELATED: 'Stay-at-home' order complicating water issues in University Park amid coronavirus pandemic

The village also used a different chemical treatment for removing rust in pipes, which removed some pipes' protective coating.

But Aqua Illinois said data show they are on a path to resolution.

The company said that it has restored high-quality water to about 89% of regularly-sampled homes and said residents under the advisory can consume their water if they run their cold tap water for two to three minutes and filter that tap water through a faucet or pitcher filter that's certified to remove lead.

The company has provided over 5,000 filters and another 6,000 filter replacements, it said.

RELATED: Elevated lead levels in water first detected in August 2018, Aqua Illinois president says

Residents in the south suburbs are frustrated over what they consider a lack of information about efforts to clean up lead-tainted water.

At the time, the village distributed thousands of cases of bottled water and stopped charging residents for inconsumable water.

Full statement from Aqua Illinois spokeswoman:

"We've restored high water quality for about 89 percent of regularly sampled homes, which demonstrates meaningful progress toward reaching the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard of 90 percent. Through Aqua Illinois' robust water sampling protocol established with national water chemistry experts and regulators, we know that hundreds of homes were never impacted by elevated lead levels and we have been able to restore high water quality for many other residents and businesses.

"We are doing everything we can to achieve a solution for those who remain impacted and all data indicates that our treatment is working effectively. Through our coordinated response, we are constantly monitoring the treatment, and have more than doubled our sampling pool - analyzing more than 4,500 water samples through our monthly program - and we continue to provide in home visits to clean and analyze faucet and plumbing fixtures.

"As we continue our efforts, because the source of the lead is internal plumbing within impacted homes, it is critical that every impacted customer continues regular tap water use, and that sampling customers continue to participate in our sampling program so that we can achieve the solution, together.

"The health and safety of our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and nothing is more important to us than achieving the long-term solution for impacted customers. As we continue working with national experts and customers under regulatory guidance to restore the best quality of water for impacted University Park residents, we will continue providing information and resources to be a good community partner.

"Maintaining an open line of communication continues to be a critical part of our response in the community. Although were not invited to this public meeting by the mayor or any Village officials and we believe it is important for customers to hear about our water quality improvements from independent third parties, we provided public officials with the latest information ahead of the meeting and continue to share updates with them and on our website. As always, we remain committed to ensuring that our customers have the facts about our water quality improvements and ongoing efforts to build on our progress."