University Park residents still using bottled water 4 years after lead found in drinking water

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Monday, June 19, 2023
Suburb still using bottled water 4 years after 'do not consume' order
University Park residents are still using bottled water four years after lead in water provided by Aqua Illinois prompted a "do not consume" order.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Monday marked four years since a "do not consume" water order was put in place in the village of University Park.

Derek Couch has been using a digital water quality tester for years. Every time the University Park resident tests the tap water, he says an elevated number appears.

SEE ALSO | University Park residents with lead in drinking water forced to use bottled water for nearly 2 years

"It's just sad. We have to keep paying for something that is bad," Couch said.

It's been four years since lead was found in the water in hundreds of University Park homes. It was the same time Aqua Illinois, the private utility that provides water for the southern suburb, switched its source from wells to the Kankakee River. Since then, residents have continued to use bottled water for cooking and consumption. Many drive to Aqua's facility to pick up large bottles provided by the company.

READ MORE | University Park mayor condemns water company for allegedly delaying lead abatement

"All of our residents deserve clean and healthy drinking water, but that is not case yet," said University Park Mayor Joseph Roudez III.

But, according to a written statement from Aqua Illinois, consistent water testing has shown the company has met all state and federal benchmarks for the past two years. Some residents admit the water is no longer brown and looks better, but Dawn Worthington doesn't want to risk it.

"I still don't trust it, and it still tastes funny," Worthington said.

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

Roudez said he continues to be concerned about old infrastructure. But, there is nothing he can do. Decades ago, long before Roudez was mayor, the village sold its water rights to Aqua Illinois.

"Aqua owns the pumping station, the transfer lines the sewer system. And because of that, the village of University Park is ineligible to get all this water relief for replacement of lead pipes," Roudez said.

In the meantime, the company is facing legal action from the Illinois attorney general and the Will County state's attorney. Aqua Illinois said it is optimistic that ongoing conversations with state officials will result in a full resolution soon.

SEE ALSO | 4 workers suspended after high lead levels found in University Park drinking water