For over two decades residents of Crestwood, IL, have been unknowingly ingesting water containing chemicals linked to cancer, liver damage, and neurological problems. A Chicago Tribune investigation has determined that Crestwood officials purposely piped contaminated well water to residents despite promising residents and the Illinois EPA that they would use the water only for emergency situations. The untreated well water composed almost 20 percent of the water supplied to residents during some months. Reports reveal that residents of the south suburb of about 11,000 people were unknowingly ingesting the hazardous water while the village was touting its cheap water rates.
The tainted water well was uncovered in 1986 as the result of EPA testing. The EPA determined that Crestwood’s well contained dangerous amounts of Perchloroethylene (PCE) related chemicals. Once PCE is absorbed into the soil it forms a plume that is leached into the groundwater. PCE breaks down into two other carncinogenic compounds that are harmful to human health: Dichloroethylene (DCE) and Vinyl Chloride. The likely source of the contaminated water was determined to be a dry cleaners located in a strip mall about 300 feet from the Crestwood well. Crestwood officials announced in 1986 that they would supply citizens exclusively with treated lake water from Alsip. Crestwood’s annual consumer confidence report also informed residents that they were receiving treated lake water. However, a recently uncovered ledger reveals that Crestwood continued to use the contaminated well. Use of the well was confirmed by a village official who told EPA investigators that the well was often turned on in order to save water purchasing costs for the village.
Both DCE and Vinyl Chloride were found in the Crestwood well in 2007 when the EPA tested all municipal water wells in the state. The village finally agreed to cap the well for good following these 2007 tests. However, since that time the EPA failed to notify residents that may have been exposed to the carcinogenic groundwater. The village of Crestwood now receives all of its water from Lake Michigan.