Illinois alleges that a company that provides water to a Chicago suburb made changes without permission from state regulators that caused lead to contaminate the village’s drinking water.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a lawsuit Friday against Aqua Illinois, the company that supplies water to residents of University Park, a village about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Chicago. […]
More than 85% of the village’s nearly 7,000 residents are black, and Raoul noted serious damage has occurred in other predominantly minority communities where contaminated water wasn’t immediately addressed. In the majority-black city of Flint, Michigan, for example, the toxic metal leached into the supply in 2014 and 2015 due to a lack of corrosion-control treatment following a switch in the water source while the city was under state emergency management.
* Background from a Raoul press release…
In 2017, Aqua switched the source of the village’s water from groundwater wells to the Kankakee River. Because of the switch, Aqua is required to conduct testing every six months. In May, Aqua reported elevated lead levels to the IEPA and later issued a notice to residents warning them not to drink the water. Additional testing in July continued to show elevated lead levels. In the most recent sampling done in August, 27 out of 60 samples collected from customers contained lead levels above the regulatory action level. The company is currently providing bottled water, pitchers with filters, and faucet filters to the impacted residents.
In response to residents’ complaints about the water’s taste following the switch to water from the Kankakee River, Aqua began adding a blended phosphate mix to the public water system. Raoul’s and Glasgow’s complaint alleges the change of the water chemistry combined with the phosphate blend caused a chemical reaction that removed a protective layer in residential plumbing. As a result, lead leached out of plumbing materials and into the water flowing into some homes and businesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, which can lead to irreversible brain damage and lifelong intellectual, emotional and behavioral consequences.
Raoul and Glasgow also allege Aqua proceeded with construction and operations without having secured the required permits from the IEPA. Aqua began providing Kankakee River water to University Park’s approximately 7,000 residents before it had secured an operating permit to do so. The complaint also alleges that Aqua introduced a blended phosphate into the public water system before it had received the requisite permit from the IEPA.
In the lawsuit, Raoul and Glasgow are seeking a preliminary injunction that requires Aqua to act immediately to correct the situation. The lawsuit also seeks to ensure Aqua provides residents with permanent, safe drinking water, as well as civil penalties, the maximums of which are defined in state statute.
* CBS 2…
You may take safe, usable water for granted until you’re forced to live without it for three months like Pamelia Roby’s family.
“Someone needs to do something about it. It should have been done a long time ago, but they really need to do something about it,” Roby said. “It’s absurd. They wouldn’t live in this mess.”
Roby’s family’s home is one of hundreds in University Park relying on bottled water for their own safety. They have to use the bottled water to drink, cook, clean and brush their teeth, because the tap water is contaminated with lead.
“I’m worried about my health; the health of my child,” Roby said. “It’s disgusting.”
* Daily Southtown…
About 1,500 Aqua customers in University Park remain unable to consume water normally following the company’s detection of elevated lead levels on June 14 and Blanchette has said it could be several months before those residents are able to drink tap water without restrictions.
The company has told affected customers they can safely drink tap water if they run their faucet two to three minutes before each use and use a pitcher or faucet filter certified by the National Sanitation Foundation to reduce lead.
Mayor Joseph Roudez, whose own home remains among those affected by the lead problem, has said it’s been “hectic” adjusting to life with tap water restrictions and admitted in early August that he still did not feel safe drinking from his tap despite Aqua’s assurances.
* Citizens Utility Board…
Water. We need it to live. Should we all own this valuable resource, or should private companies own our water? That question will be asked all over this state in the wake of two private companies passing one of the nation’s most substantial water-privatization laws here in Illinois.
Aqua Illinois and Illinois American Water (IAW) succeeded in lobbying state lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 3051 in the fall of 2018. Aqua and IAW can now crisscross our state offering cash-strapped municipalities top dollar for their systems, all the while the ratepayers of Aqua and IAW will pay for their expansion.
Since the companies’ legislation took effect on June 1 of this year, the two companies have already filed for four acquisitions with the Illinois Commerce Commission. Those four acquisitions are scheduled to cost the ratepayers of the two companies $11.35 million, and the companies are likely just getting started. As I write this, their agents are knocking on the doors of Illinois municipalities, dazzling them with big money for water systems that are fully depreciated and in need of investment. […]
There is a bill in Springfield that would allow you a vote before your community could privatize its water and/or sewer system. House Bill 2392, sponsored by Rep. John Connor, would allow a referendum so the current owners of a municipal water system, the people that live in the community, would have a voice in the future of an asset critical to their lives.