A Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that for more than 20 years, residents of Crestwood, Illinois, have been unknowingly drinking contaminated tap water. The water was contaminated with toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems.
At least 22 years ago, state environmental officials advised Crestwood village officials that dangerous chemicals related to a dry-cleaning solvent had contaminated water in a certain well. Despite this advisement, the Crestwood officials continued to use the well, seemingly to cut costs.
In 1986, Crestwood officials told state regulators that the well would only be used in emergency situations and that all its water would be taken from Lake Michigan. Alarmingly, however, records reveal that Crestwood routinely continued to draw water from the contaminated well. In fact, in certain months, up to 20% of Crestwood’s water supply was taken from this well.
In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested this water for the first time in 20 years. The EPA found that the well was still contaminated and that Crestwood had continued to supply residents with the untreated, contaminated water. As a result, the EPA issued two citations to Crestwood for violation of environmental laws, and the well was finally turned off for good. Despite this, the EPA has not yet notified people who drank from the well all those years, and the investigation is still under way.
It is unknown if the contaminated water in fact contributed to any health problems. State officials maintain the risks were minimal because the well water was heavily diluted with treated lake water, though dilution is generally not acceptable to ensure safe drinking water. One of the chemicals found in the well was vinyl chloride, and there was more than twice the legal limit for drinking water found in the well. According to the EPA, there is no safe level of exposure to vinyl chloride.
Crestwood finally shut off the well after the EPA gave them the choice of doing so or paying for expensive treatment to limit chemical exposure.
If you think you may have been exposed to contaminated water in Crestwood, contact a legal professional to discuss whether you should pursue a cause of action.