Residents, park district at odds over treating lake causing Swimmer’s Itch

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Illinois lakes are popular spots during the summer months, but one community has had to back off from using their lake.

Valley Lake has produced a parasite which leads to the disease Swimmer’s Itch. It spreads through snails.

Signs went up near the lake warning residents but it didn’t keep kids away and soon bite that itch “worse than mosquito bites” were everywhere.

Now residents say they can’t do a thing to get rid of it.  They went to the Wildwood Park District board repeatedly but no luck.  In fact, meetings are getting fiery and outbursts have occurred.

The conflict is over how to treat the lake.

Residents want it to be treated with copper sulfate, an inorganic compound that kills bacteria and the snails that transmit Swimmer’s Itch. But Park District board members fear it will kill plants in the lake too.

The Illinois Dept of Public Health isn’t choosing sides. They issued a statement saying “The department does not prohibit nor recommend this activity because there seems little or no specific evidence to support the conclusion that copper sulfate treatment significantly reduces the likelihood of Swimmer’s Itch.”

The lake will soon be stocked with red ear sunfish, which eat those that are infected with the snails.

Not clear if that will actually work.  It’s now been three years since the two sides have been fighting about this.  The longer it goes on, they fear the worse it will get.

Swimmer’s Itch is known to spread from lake to lake with time through migratory birds.  So far, no other lakes in that area have been impacted.  Plans to start stocking the lake with red ear fish are for this fall.



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  • Liz

    How can elected officials treat people like that? Aren’t they supposed to listen to people not yell at them? Can the park district really care more about plants than poor kids being bit by bugs while swimming in a lake? Hard to believe I just saw that. Who is that guy?

    • Joe

      Not that it is an acceptable way to react but the video does not show the harassment being levied at the board. The board has been listening to those psychos for months, even years, as they have interrupted meetings, harassed guest speakers (like the representatives from the state who came to meetings to try and educate all about swimmer’s itch) by shouting at them and interjecting constantly. This was a biased report ran by a reporter that is friends with those complaining (conflict of interest anyone? is there journalistic integrity at all?)

      Two of the board members live on that very lake with their families, they do care about the lake and the children which is part of the reason why (including the fact that legally they can’t) the Park District voted against the use of copper sulfate.

      Please read in full the letter from the state and subsequent letter that was sent to the residents
      “Furthermore,the copper does not degrade but accumulates in the sediments of the lakes and ponds it is applied to.”

  • butch mill

    poor valley lake we live in nearby loch lomand 5 miles away and had swimmers itch, we treat for it eveyyear with copper sulphate and it is gone, and we swim there every day. what is wrong with these people to wait 3 years????? where did they get that board member?

    • Joe

      Is that a public or private owned lake? Private home owner associations don’t have the same legal hoops to jump through as public
      “As a State of Illinois Certified Beach, the beach on Valley Lake falls under rules contained in the Code. Section 820.400.4 states that if schistosome dermatitis (swimmer’s itch) is known to exist and chemical treatment is chosen, the chemical treatment shall comply with all federal, State and local requirements, including prior approval of the Department or its agents. At this time, the Lake County Health Department (who issues our operational license) has not yet been informed (from the State) of the approval process or who is deemed the approving agency. In summary, chemical treatment without approval violates items contained in the Illinois Public Health Swimming Facility Administrative Code.”
      The Park District does listen, they looked into having the lake treated with copper sulfate and it cannot be done!

      • Elizabeth

        Joe you are really uninformed. Please contact the health department. That permit thing you are talking about is just not true. Whoever is giving you this information is misleading you. Is it the park district? Joe please don’t make this personal. It is about the lake. Let’s keep it about the lake. My parents live in wildwood, their grandkids my children swam in that lake every day. We all care very deeply about the lake.

      • Joe

        It is in the letter from the health department but due to selective reading you have only seen the part where they state they do not prohibit nor recommend the use of copper sulfate.

        “Harmful effects on non-target organisms and the environment also are of great concern regarding the addition of copper sulfate to ponds and lakes. Applications at rates specified for snail control (which are much higher than those for algae control) are likely to kill other mollusks,invertebrates, and possibly fish. Furthermore,the copper does not degrade but accumulates in the sediments of the lakes and ponds it is applied to.

        The Department instead recommends that persons entering waters believed to harbor the parasites take the following steps to reduce the incidence and severity of swimmer’s itch:

        1) Avoid feeding waterfowl (another of the parasite’s hosts), especially ducks and Canada geese
        2) Avoid swimming in a lake or pond where swimmer’s itch is occurring (no-swimming orders may be helpful)
        3) Avoid swimming in the morning, on sunny days,and along shorelines where the wind blows onto (not away from) shore (cercariae are easily blown along with surface water)
        4) Reduce the duration of swimming, and towel-off exposed skin frequently
        5) Wear water-resistant formulations of DEET and/or UV sun protection”

        “The department instead recommends” that means that is what the health department recommends, instead of the use of copper sulfate. My nieces swim in the lake and have never gotten a bite as my family has followed the precautions that were recommended after we saw the signs about swimmers itch.

  • Kate

    Redear sunfish do not do well or will not survive in northern illinois. They also won’t make a dent in The swimmers itch problem from a lake. That’s from the Illinois dnr. Lets focus on actual real solutions to get back to swimming in our lake!

    • Joe

      We can still swim, my family does, including my 5 year old nieces who have NEVER gotten a bite as we actually shower and clean off after swimming. I feel bad for the children in the photos shown in the story as their mother left them in the lake and did not shower or towel off after in order to create as bad a bite as possible in to use them as pawns.

      • Elizabeth

        Joe, This is truly insulting. Who as a mother would do that to their children? Do you really believe that? Who would even think of doing that? Whenever our children have been in the lake of course we shower them. I would never subject my kids to any discomfort willingly and I take huge offense to that allegation. I can’t even wrap my brain around someone who even think that? Whenever we used to swim the kids go right in to the walk out basement and scrub. We have tried everything to prevent the bites from happening. We’ve tried sunscreen, toweling off, showering. None of it has worked. After this spring’s round of bites I won’t even let my kids in the water. The park district has irresponsibly let this problem go for three years and it is out of control and very bad. Please let’s keep this about the lake and not personal attacks on people’s character as a parent.

      • Elizabeth

        Joe, Also 40% of the population does not get effected by swimmers itch so that could be your niece. Just because she doesn’t have the allergic reaction does not mean she wasn’t infected by the parasite. The rest of us have tried everything we could to get back to swimming in the lake we love.

      • Joe

        She is deathly allergic to peanuts, has a nut allergy, very sensitive skin, and has to have benadryl cream put on any mosquito bite she gets, I doubt she is one of the 40% that are immune.

      • Lauren

        Guess what Joe, my son is also deathly allergic to nuts and he too has very sensitive skin. He has suffered horrible bites from the parasite that causes swimmer’s itch. Just because it doesn’t affect your family doesn’t mean other families should suffer. Swimmers Itch is a problem that needs to be fixed, and the park district should be fixing it.

      • Elizabeth

        Kevin this is from the Assistant Chief of Fisheries at the Illinois DNR…

        “Redear are a southern species and generally don’t do well in northern IL. The biologists don’t stock them there nearly as often as in S.IL. Also, while they do eat snails (they are called shell crackers in the southern states), they would not eat enough to impact the “swimmer’s itch” problem in a lake. “

        The only reason the park district is doing this as Joe pointed out is that it is free to them.

        Let’s look for a real solution so we can get back to swimming in our lake.

    • Joe

      None of the board members receive any compensation, it is a volunteer elected position. What the video doesn’t show is the people harassing the board members and attempting to hijack the meetings. Elizabeth Davies and her cronies have conducted themselves like children at the meetings and are continuing to cost the RESIDENTS more and more money.

      • Elizabeth

        I think the bottom line is that other lakes in our immediate area are successfully treating their lakes with copper sulfate. We have not been able to use ours for 3 years. The health department does not prohibit it. We know the negatives just like these other lakes do and still want to use it so we can swim in our lake again. It was used in our lake for 40 years with none of the ill effects like we are warned about. A large group of residents over 100 people signed a petition and want to treat it like the other lakes are doing.

      • Joe

        I have spoken with other neighbors and the majority that of those I spoke that did actually sign one of them with stated they only signed it to get you to leave their property. The petitions themselves misrepresented the facts and are not indicative of what the entire community wants. The board saw the petitions, addressed the concerns, spoke with state officials and held meetings to educate the public on said issues. After that the options and facts were considered before a decision was made. They have listened and are trying to rectify the problem, just because you did not get what you wanted does not mean that you can try and turn it into a larger issue and pressure people to do what you want.

  • Joe

    Please educate yourself, the state will not let us treat the lake with copper sulfate, a permit needs to be issued and they will not issue one. “Harmful effects on non-target organisms and the environment also are of great concern regarding the addition of copper sulfate to ponds and lakes. Applications at rates specified for snail control (which are much higher than those for algae control) are likely to kill other mollusks,invertebrates, and possibly fish. Furthermore,the copper does not degrade but accumulates in the sediments of the lakes and ponds it is applied to.”

    There is already enough copper sulfate in the lake from previous treatments, before the dangers were known, that if the lake were to be dredged it would require a hazardous materials team and special dumping to get it done.
    Don’t listen to the scaremongering idiots making a big stink out of it, ELIZABETH DAVIES DOESN’T EVEN LIVE IN WILDWOOD.

    • Elizabeth

      Again Joe please educate yourself on the permit issue. Like WGN reported the health department does not prohibit or recommend. It is neutral. What you are saying is just not true. It is not illegal and other lakes in our immediate area are using it. Loch Lomond treats their lake with copper sulfate every year since 1997 and reports great success. They have boat races, loch fests, and swimming lessons. There are 2 lakes in Barrington South Lake and the Loves and 1 in Wauconda Estates Lake that also use copper sulfate to treat swimmers itch. 380 lakes in Minnesota and 2,000 permits in Michigan.

      • Joe

        Ask the members of the board,they looked into getting a permit and it cannot be done. If you actually read the letter you will see the part that states “The Department instead recommends” meaning instead of the use of copper sulfate they recommend the preventative measures. The state also recommends the use of the redear sunfish which are being supplied at no cost to the residents or Park District.

  • Elizabeth

    Joe you are still misinformed on the permit issue. Please call the health department yourself. The entire lake could be treated today according to the regulations. The public beach needs a permit. It is not illegal and the park district has never applied. Permitting doesn’t even apply to the majority of the lake.

    Regarding Redear sunfish
    From the IL DNR assistant chief of fisheries.
    “Redear are a southern species and generally don’t do well in northern IL. The biologists don’t stock them there nearly as often as in S.IL. Also, while they do eat snails (they are called shell crackers in the southern states), they would not eat enough to impact the “swimmer’s itch” problem in a lake. “

    • Joe

      In order for copper sulfate treatment to be effective it would have to be applied to the beach and shore where swimmer’s itch is present, as you acknowledge in order to treat the beach a permit is required. The Park District tried applying for a permit but the Health Department told the Park District that they (Health Department) have have not been informed by the State how to even go through the approval process or who the approving agency is. If a permit cannot be obtained then even if residents wanted to treat the lake with copper sulfate (most of us don’t and it doesn’t even really matter as the issue has been voted on by the Park District) it could not be done without violating health codes (most people view violated health codes as illegal)

      • Elizabeth

        Joe I am in contact with the health department myself and the words I have gotten directly from them is if the Park District decided they were going to do this they (the health department) just wants to make sure the park district is following all the proper channels and regulations. They are looking into the government agencies to make sure everything is followed correctly. The Health department is not pleased that the park district is taking their letters and statements out of context. You are right the park district voted no not to treat the lake and to not even talk about it anymore for 2 years. They have never applied for a permit and are using this as an excuse.

        How can you have a parasite problem in the lake where people can’t even go swimming and as a board in good conscience vote not to even talk about it for 2 years?

  • Adam

    Joe, after reading the letter it appears as if you’re trying to mislead people by quoting the sentence that says “The Department instead recommends”. The key word here is “recommends”. A recommendation is NOT a legal requirement, nor does it prohibit other actions. In fact if you quoted the entire letter you would see the section that states “the Department does not prohibit nor recommend this activity”. They are neutral on the topic. You seem to be ignoring the part that states DOES NOT PROHIBIT.

    • Joe

      Does not prohibt is not the equivalent of endorse, the Department also does not prohibit suicide but that doesn’t mean they are ok with it. If you read the full letter as you state you would understand that while there is no ban on copper sulfate the Health Department is recommending the use of other preventative measures. “I’m not going to tell you what to do, but what I would do is…” I do not prohibit you from watching the entire video of the meeting, but I do recommend you that you watch it.

      • Elizabeth

        Joe the bottom line is we can treat the lake like the others in our area are successfully doing with copper sulfate. The health department does not prohibit it. Swimmers Itch is a relatively new problem to Illinois and the Health Department is just now doing research. We have talked to a lot of other states and the DNRs there about their methods of treatment. We haven’t been able to use the lake for 3 years and over 100 residents signed a petition wanted the same treatment as these other lakes in our area and in other states so we can go back to swimming again.

        This is from the Michigan DNR on how to successfully treat with copper sulfate

        “Over many years of swimmer’s itch control work in Michigan using motor-powered units, application of copper sulfate with fresh hydrated lime has proven to be a satisfactory, economical method.
        If application of the necessary chemicals is made at the proper rate, free-swimming fish should not be killed.
        If persons applying the chemicals are mindful of the following points, the control operation will have a good chance of success.”

        They go on to give 4 tips to make sure your application is a success.

        This is some of the material we want the board to read and see.

      • Tom

        Hi Joe, just following your logic here… to make an analagous statement using your own flawed rhetoric (“I do not prohibit you from watching the entire video of the meeting, but I do recommend you that you watch it”), are you also suggesting the department does not prohibit the use of copper sulfate, but highly encourages it? Read it slowly…maybe you’ll get it. Your words, not mine.

        And that board member is a joke. I don’t live in Wildwood, or Lake County for that matter, but that’s plain enough.

  • Adam

    Joe, your comparison to suicide is willfully ignorant. I understand that they’re not necessarily endorsing by stating they don’t prohibit it. However, in your previous posts, you were purposely trying to mislead people into believing that they’re actually prohibiting the park district from using the treatment which is not the case. You can’t defend that. The park district officials appear to be acting unilaterally in their decision making. Since the park district officials are elected by the residents, the officials should follow the residents will rather than their own agenda.

    • Joe

      Adam, your inability to use the reply button along with your understanding of the situation is willfully ignorant. Unlike the group attempting to poison the lake I wasn’t trying to mislead anyone, merely trying to help you understand the letter. Just because you are passionate and eloquent does not make you right nor do you actually speak for the majority of the residents. We do not have a direct democracy at the local or federal level, we elect officials to make decisions on our behalf. That can either be based on a platform candidates ran upon or by listening to RESIDENTS. As the board listened to both residents, non-residents, and qualified individuals representing the state I feel they have done their job and due diligence in looking at all the information before a decision was made.

  • carla

    Joe, We need to consider surrounding lakes. We know how things spread as in zebra mussels. If you want to consider the environment you need to consider the whole environment. Not just your little “lake”.

  • Adam

    Wildwood is unincorporated and it doesn’t have a village government model. Since the park district won’t take appropriate action, do they have a legal way of stopping the residents from banding together and treating the lake appropriately? It is the residents lake after all. Or could the county be brought in to assist?

  • Brian Frederiksen

    The Wildwood Park District owns the lake bottom and is responsible for maintaining Valley Lake and any treatment has to have their permission. It must be applied by a certified professional company with 4-6 parts per million. The township and county have been contacted but the jurisdiction is the Wildwood Park District and they have refused for the last three summers.

    • Dean

      I live on nearby Grayslake, and if that swimmers itch gets here, that Wildwood park board will have a lot to answer for and a lot of angry people at their meetings. That poster using the name Joe sounds like a board member, an employee, or a relative of one. Where does HE really live? We would not sit still for that swimmers itch here on our Grayslake. Whatever you have to do to get rid of it , You Need to DO THAT! You are risking other beautiful recreational lakes here. Isn’t that what a park district is supposed to do, take care of the lakes and recreation for the people of Lake County? I would never let anyone talk to me like those 2 members at that meeting. You need to vote them OUT. Do the other members act like that too and do they agree with that behavior? No wonder those residents are mad, 3 years of that – I would be Really MAD! Those poor kids all bit up.
      I feel sorry for those people on Valley Lake, as a kid I went a few times to swim there with my friends, a nice spot, always busy. So Sad to the lake empty like that.

      • Kevin

        Dean, The board never talks to people that that. However, that is the result of two+ years of harassment from the people interrupting their meetings and shouting at them, stopping them on the street, spreading lies about them behind their backs. Yelling the same things over and over again. The board has done much more than nothing, they have done research, they have contact officials at the county and state level. The answer that comes back is that noone will approve copper sulfate for the use of killing snails to prevent swimmers itch. Two of the board members live on Valley Lake. They care very much what happens and do currently use the lake.

  • Elizabeth

    Adam this is a small lake with 40 homes. We have a petition signed by over 100 residents that are aware of the issues with copper sulfate and want to use it to control our snails like other area lakes are successfully doing. The park district continues to ignore this compartmentalizing us like Joe by saying we are just a few trouble making residents. They say people only signed the petition to get us away. That was not the case. I personally spent hours visiting with residents and talking about the ins and outs of the issues. People invited me into their homes. They sat down and talked and wanted their voices heard. During this process it was amazing to me how many residents had been effected. We collected story after story and tried to present this and the petition to the board. The board members refuse information from us. We are not allowed to converse with them at meetings and they have no published way to contact them such as an email. We should be having good conversations about the ecological issues facing our lake. We should be fighting for our lake not each other. This whole situation is a gross mismanagement of the lake and of the democratic process.

    If you know of any avenue or can think of anything to help please share. Thanks.

    • Kevin

      On your petition did you have both the pros and cons of the use of copper sulfate? Did you provide any other alternatives? How was your petition given to the board, was it tossed at them or brought up during a session when they were discussing something else? Are you going through the proper channels to provide information to the board? The Wildwood Park District board is a collection of elected volunteers, I’m sure most (or all) of them have day jobs. I would assume the proper channel would be mail or email if you were trying to specifically get a hold of them. I doubt the full time employees of the park district who have many other day to day responsibilities have the time or energy to deal with all of the information you are trying to share. A quick view of their website shows that there are email addresses you could use, and indeed an address you could drop off or mail information to. Were those alternatives attempted before shouting at the board and spreading misinformation around the neighborhood? As an old and new again RESIDENT of Wildwood I wasn’t privy to what has been going on before the past year other than what I have read online in my own research, of the park district minutes available online, and the skewed information over at your website. I simply find it really hard to believe that an elected board of volunteers, elected to keep care of the lake and parks in Wildwood, who are all probably longtime residents of Wildwood, would simply ignore or yell at people who are trying to provide them information in a calm unbiased non-harassing type of manner. The pieces of the story painted by you and WGN simply don’t seem to fit to me.

      • Elizabeth

        After the first swimmer’s itch occurrence in May we contacted the park district. We told her of the occurrences and how our kids were bit up. This was after vigorously toweling off and showering. We would do anything to enjoy the lake we love. Maureen encouraged us to come to the board meeting and talk to the board members there. We circulated the petition and compiled a document with about 50 cases of residents effected by the swimmers itch. When we tried to talk to the board they told us it wasn’t on the agenda and they couldn’t talk about it. Then they mysteriously decided to continue this meeting at a previously unscheduled time two weeks later, added the agenda item, and then refused to let residents talk. That is when the board voted not to treat the lake and to not talk about it for two years. They voted on this after they refused to talk to us at one meeting because it wasn’t “on the agenda” and then they flat out refused any comment from the public at the second meeting. How are we supposed to take that? This is flat out unjustifiable as an elected body. All the park board is doing is trying to blame this on everyone else when ultimately they are responsible for letting the infestation go without check for three years. Their position is indefensible which is why it came out so bad on the WGN report.

    • Kevin

      The board has done much more than nothing, they have done research, they have contact officials at the county and state level, they have spent more time on this than anyone knows. The answer that comes back is that noone will approve copper sulfate for the use of killing snails to prevent swimmers itch. Two of the board members live on Valley Lake. They all care very much what happens. Again, they are voted in VOLUNTEERS who have taken on the job because they care about Wildwood and the residents.

  • Larry

    I think we should throw Joe into the lake!
    Spreading the parasite to Gages Lake or other lakes are inexcusable.
    I would like to find out when the next meeting is and where.

      • Kevin

        The park district office is on Rule Park in Wildwood. It is an open meeting, so all are welcome to come and listen. I’m sure everyone simply asks that we all act like adults and be respective towards one another. In addition, I would simply ask that people picking sides in this situation do their own research and don’t let the passionate but misleading people of make up your minds for you.

  • Robb

    The board has failed to do anything for three years?! Copper sulfate is used in states where lakes are the life blood of the state. There is no law prohibiting the use of copper sulfate in Illinois! If you mix it correctly, it will not cause any fish kills or kill the lake at all. From what I saw, that drain in the lake will make it into a retention pond anyway, and that means no one will be able to use it. So is that what the board wants, what are they waiting for? It appaers as though this board doesn’t have the best interest of the public in mind. Oh, and its not harassment when the people you serve are concerned about something and the elected officials fail to act! It’s the people’s duty and right to question their representatives, and when the will of the people is not being met, that elected group is failing at their job and should be replaced!

    • Kevin

      The board has done much more than nothing, they have done research, they have contact officials at the county and state level, they have spent more time on this than anyone knows. The answer that comes back is that noone will approve copper sulfate for the use of killing snails to prevent swimmers itch. Two of the board members live on Valley Lake. They all care very much what happens. Again, they are voted in VOLUNTEERS who have taken on the job because they care about Wildwood and the residents.
      The drains into and out of the lake have been there as long as I can remember. They exist in lakes surrounded by houses in the suburbs. The Park District installed riprap and local vegetation in the south end entryway to try and slow the ingress of phosphorus from people fertilizing their lawns.
      It IS harassment.

      • Robb

        It sounds as though you are a board members friend or relative on this situation. You said that the lake is useable but is infected with the parasite. That is a contradiction in itself, and only weakens your argument on this matter of how the board has treated this situation. And no state authority will take sides on a matter that doesn’t affect them directly. That is why they are neither recomending nor telling them not to use the copper sulfate, which means the state is neutral on the matter. It is not illegal to use it! And if you wait any longer like you stated, you have an unusable lake worse then what you have now. And it just so happens that my trade is in civil engineering. Wich means I know what happens when storm drains are put into small lakes, and I want to emphasize SMALL! The board is not working for good of the people, so do some credible research before you respond, and check the sources on, they are all there.

  • Dolly

    It seems to me every effort should be made ASAP to make the lake safe once again for the residents to enjoy. Children should be swimming and playing. Folks should be paddling around the lake and enjoying the day. I would think the swift resolution of this problem would be a priority to the board, not something continually put on the back burner. If the copper sulfate treatment has been successful at other lakes why not use it here? Or if not that, SOMETHING should have been done by now.

    • KB

      It is a gross misrepresentation to say that the board has sat back from this issue. They have spent countless hours, as VOLUNTEERS, to solve this problem. If getting rid of swimmers itch was as easy as using chemicals, the Wildwood Park District would have done this already. It is truly a shame that this issue has been so misrepresented by WGN and is further ruining the reputation of the lake. At the end of the day, all of the residents want the same thing. Perhaps instead of focusing all their energy on just one solution (copper sulfate) this passionate group of people could use their energy to find a different solution that would be less controversial.

      • Elizabeth

        What is really ashamed is the board has been dealing with this for 3 years with no solution and with no plan at all to deal with swimmers itch.

        KB, that certainly sounds like sitting back from an issue to me.

        Are residents just supposed to sit back and wait 2 more years of not using our lake?
        All of this while other lakes in our immediate area use copper sulfate to solve the problem. On an 80 degree summer days while other lakes are swimming and enjoying their recreational lakes, Valley Lake sits empty. If there were other real solution out there we would love to use them. After 100s of hours of research, the only known solution to swimmers itch is copper sulfate. That is why it is being used by other lakes in our area and why it is used in MN, MI, MS, KY, NY. Those are just the states I have personally spoken to.

        I would love the chance to talk to board members about all solutions. Swimmers itch is a complex problem that has a lot of ecological issues. Any good approach should involve multiple tiers as a solution, as one of the board members suggested. The idea that we are going to solve our severe swimmers itch problem, in the face of the drain pumping pollutant phosphorus run off into our lake without chemical intervention, is just naive. The board is being unfairly discriminant towards copper sulfate. The copper compounds we use currently on the lake are very similar to copper sulfate and in some minds even more toxic.

      • KK

        The one thing the residents want is to be able to swim in the lake again! Wouldn’t you? The swimmers itch problem is so bad from being left alone for the past three summers that these small measures, like using the redear sunfish, is really not likely to have any impact at all.

        The board members are volunteers who were elected by the residents of Wildwood. Shouldn’t they be spending countless hours trying to rectify a parasite problem affecting their residents?

        After reading all the information on valley and watching the news report I feel the Park District and Board are the ones grossly misrepresenting the Situation.

      • Kevin

        I believe the board made the decision to not talk about it for two years was because they had spoken to the relevant officials on the local, county, and state levels. They had received information from them in regards to using copper sulfate to treat swimmers itch (not just using copper sulfate for algae). They received information on the long term use of copper sulfate and how poisonous it can be to an ecosystem. They voted based on all the information they had amassed and made a decision. Isn’t that what elected officials are elected to do? To make decisions based on information from the experts? Not on emotion and outdated information. They have spent countless hours talking about and dealing with the swimmers itch situation and the use of copper sulfate. Is that all we want them to ever talk about? Or do we want to to collect the relevant information and make a decision based on the best interest of the residents of Wildwood both present and future. And then move onto other pressing issues a part district has to deal with.

      • Kevin

        The lake is still usable. It is unfortunate that it has been infested with swimmers itch. However, I would take what you read at with a grain of salt. I would ask that you watch the entire videos of the meetings, not just the time stamped parts they marked. Ask yourself where are the sources of the information that has been compiled at How old is it? Is there a reason that the state doesn’t outright recommend the use of copper sulfate? Do we really think that a board with two of its members living on the lake would be ignoring a problem that directly affects them, their children, and grandchildren? Then do an image search for swimmers itch and see what a real infestation would look like. They can itch very bad, as I contracted them in Wisconsin one time, but 6 bites is not an epidemic.

  • Clare

    Obviously the health and safety of the families living on the lake are the most important factors here. But let me add this — I feel bad for any of these homeowners who currently have their property up for sale. I can’t imagine any potential buyers making offer on a lakefront home when they and their children can’t use the lake. This needs to be addressed.

    • Kevin

      The health and safety of the residents and others using Valley Lake is an extremely high priority of the board members. And two of them live on the lake, so they certainly don’t want to ignore the issue. Thinking about the FUTURE of the lake and the toxicity of the copper sulfate is what lead them to the decision to not use it. Not being able to secure a permit for its use for the intention of ridding the lake of swimmers itch is another reason. How much longer should they discuss ‘options’ that are not viable options?
      I too feel bad for anyone trying to sell their homes as this issue is getting blown way out of proportion. and I would like to add that the use of Swimmers Itch Guard or sunscreen will virtually eliminate any bites that swimmers would contract.
      I also feel bad for people that want to use the lake, but are being turned away and told exaggerations by a few of the residents and non-residents that feel like this is the only issue that matters right now.

      • Kathryn

        Kevin your comment has me very concerned. My son has a severe nut allergy and is allergic to one of the ingredients in Swimmers Itch Guard. If people are using this product in the lake it can be life threatening to my child and probably many others. THIS GOES OUT TO ANY PARENT IN WILDWOOD WHOSE CHILD HAS TREE NUT ALLERGIES, THE WILDWOOD PARK DISTRICT IS ADVISING RESIDENTS TO USE SWIMMERS ITCH GUARD, WHICH CONTAINS ALMOND OIL, IN VALLEY LAKE.

        We have used sunscreen, toweled off, and showered after swimming, but have all still been bitten. So yes I would very much like them to continue to discuss options until they have fixed the parasite problem in the lake because their suggestions to remedy the situation don’t work and happen to be very dangerous to my family. Especially since this problem is something that can be and has been fixed by other lakes locally and in other states.

      • Elizabeth

        If your child has a severe tree nut allergy and swims in Valley Lake be advised other swimmers may be using Swimmer’s Itch Guard. It contains almond oil. My nephew had a severe hospitalized allergic reaction from inhaling fumes from roasted almonds. I could only imagine if he was swimming near someone with the swimmer’s itch guard. PLEASE BE CAREFUL! When the board voted to provide this to residents only one board member voiced his concern about the dangers of providing something with a known allergen. He was worried they would be liable.

  • Elizabeth

    A few residents canvassed the neighborhood last night. We have 2 new households to add to those affected by swimmers itch. They received the letter from the park district toweled off and showered after being in the lake. These are new and recent cases. One case was a teenage boy who was bit on every part of his body from the waist down. Another was an entire family where all the kids were severely effected. The board wants to say this is not a severe problem that you can just shower or use sunscreen and it won’t effect you when that is really not true as these 2 families know all too well. After all the information presented residents still want the copper sulfate treatment. They don’t understand why the board is not listening to residents. Copper Sulfate is not an outdated treatment. In MN the number of lakes using it control swimmers itch has doubled in the last 10 years.

  • Kevin

    I suspect that Liz=Elizabeth. And Brian=BDav. And Kate=Kathryn. Brian is Elizabeth’s husband. Kate is Elizabeth’s sister. None of them are residents of Wildwood. Please stop referring to yourselves as residents.
    Fear mongering by telling people their house will be worth nothing because of swimmer’s itch is irresponsible.
    The board gathered a bunch of information regarding the use of copper sulfate from reputable sources including experts on the local, county, and state level. They made the decision to not put any more copper sulfate in the lake due to their desire for the *future* of the lake and the people who wish to use it. Then they voted not to talk about the use of *copper sulfate* for two years. They did not vote to not talk about swimmer’s itch. I just don’t understand why anyone would think that people who are long time residents (some who grew up here in Wildwood as children), were voted into office by the residents of Wildwood, think that the board doesn’t care. They DO care, and that is why they haven’t folded on their believe that copper sulfate is a poison that collects in the bodies of water it is used in, and are not going to use it, despite the harassment.
    Further more, *somebody* needs to speak on the boards behalf. WGN cut out all the rest of the interview footage they had and didn’t show any of the rest of the meeting. That meeting has some good information right around the 50 min mark.

    • Robb

      It doesn’t matter if they are residents or not, because they probably have family or friends on the lake, and they are helping the residents voice their concerns, much like you are doing now, and lawyers do for their clients! Its clear that these people have done extensive and exhaustive research on this topic, but the board doesn’t want to use any of it. How can you sit there and state that a lake that WAS treated with copper sulfate for decades prior, and not show any signs of heavy metal contamination or fish kills or what ever else your thinking would be catastrophic to the lakes ecosystem?
      With this lake getting shallower and shallower because the storm drain is dumping large of amounts of phosphorous and sediments into the lake making it the best breeding ground for invasive plant, animal and parasite species to grow and reproduce, it won’t take long before you have no fish or good plants anyway. And contrary to popular belief, fertilizers that you spread on your lawns, don’t come close to the phosphorous output levels that salt trucks do during the winter. And after last seasons winter, and another winter just a few months away… The future looks like a shallow pond not fit for recreational use, and then what would be the opinion of the board on that one I wonder, when no can use the lake? That’s documentation I found on the Lake County Website with data compiled by their health department which shows that Valley lake back in 2007 is well above the Lake County Median for phosphorous levels.
      So you have some choices:
      1. Get rid of that drain. (Then dredge out the lake, and hope for the best)
      2. Continually dredge out the bottom of the lake $$$$$ and hope for the best.
      3. Hire an animal control outfit to capture and treat all the water fowl with a veterinarian approved parasite vaccine $$$$$. Then treat the lake with copper sulfate, because lets face it. This has been happening for three years with no action, its going to need the treatment to rid the lake of the parasite and snails.
      4. Or the best option, Treat with copper sulfate in measured amounts as they did for decades prior with no problems ever recorded.

      Time to drop the pride and let logic and reasoning take over!

    • Kathryn

      I am Elizabeth’s sister and I have only posted under the name Kathryn. I am a resident of Wildwood. I suspect that Joe=Joe Kowalski and Kevin=Kevin Kowalski. Do you think there could be any relation to Maj Kowalski, the Park Board President?

    • Brian Frederiksen

      I have been trying to keep low on this allowing others to post their opinions but this is getting out of hand and personal.

      There are several posts from Joe or Kevin and someone stated that they are somehow connected to a member of the Wildwood Park District Board. A few days ago a “Valley Lake Wildwood” group was created on Facebook – ( ) with one post stating “Kevin Kowalski made Joe Pepe Kowalski an admin.” Joe and Kevin are family members of Maj Kowalski, Board President of the Wildwood Park District. Some may consider their posts intimidating and have stopped posting their opinions.

      They have repeatedly brought up that Beth and Brian Davies are non-residents. I am not part of their family but have lived next door to them for the last ten years and would like to comment.

      Beth and Brian have definitely lived here! Now that they have their own three children, they have a home in Grayslake but were here almost daily – until swimmers itch appeared. Their children developed swimmers itch and do not understand why they cannot go into the lake meaning limited trips to grandma and grandpa’s house. Sunday dinners are elsewhere – I know because I have helped them pack the food they prepared into their car! A few summers ago there was a lot of noise and activity with their kids here, now there is silence!

      Families live on Valley Lake and many homes have been passed down to the next generation, such as my own. Cindy and Dan Bundalo had a lifelong dream of living on a lake and bought this house but, like the rest of us, they are getting older and are considering downsizing to a smaller home. Beth and Brian will be the next generation of the Bundalos to live here but there are problems. Their children have repeatedly suffered from swimmers itch – how could they move on a lake that they cannot use?

      Beth is active about the swimmers itch issue to protect her children and family home. They will live here for the next thirty years will be a great neighbors. To call them non-residents and placing their children in the lake “to create as bad a bite as possible” is absurd – it is time to stop this!

      • knthms

        I noticed that you quoted a letter from the state forbidding the use of copper sulfate in lakes on your facebook page.
        Did you even bother to read the letter?
        That is a blatant lie!
        The question of whether or not to treat the lake is not a simple one so why be so adamant about it.
        If you and your family is not affected by swimmers itch why does that make all the rest of us psychos for wanting our lake back?
        It isn’t your personal swimming pool that you get to kick everyone else out via the snail problem.
        We are not lying! We were affected by swimmers itch while still in the water! There was no time to dry off!
        Stop the intimidation tactics, they only pissed me off and now make me want to do something rather than sitting on the sidelines!
        A quick note to the Park district board members; this is the kind of thing that can and will get you voted off the board!
        DO YOUR JOB!
        Put your egos aside it is not about you!

  • knthms

    I live directly on Valley lake and this is sickening!
    Treat the lake already! We got eaten alive from the snail larvae!
    I don’t see how anyone in there right mind would state that their niece wasn’t affected. Just because she didn’t have the corresponding itch does not mean that the larvae didn’t burrow into her skin!
    If you can’t treat it with the copper sulfate without a permit then you should be starting the process of getting the permit. UNLESS you are wanting to use that as an excuse!
    Did you contact the state or only relaying what the health department said?
    Valley lake is a man made lake and must be maintained as such. You cannot dig a whole in the ground, fill it with water, and forget it!
    I have used copper sulfate for years in aquariums both as a means to eliminate snails and it is the gold standard for ich treatments!
    Treat the lake already!

  • Elizabeth

    This is a post I tried to put out to Wildwood Moms. It was unfortunately deleted by the administrator of the group a board members wife. I feel it is important to share

    Thanks for this forum to discuss and share information with other Moms.

    I just want to make sure all the Moms out there know how bad the parasites are on Valley Lake. My kids have been severely bitten by the parasite in the lake. We have tried all the measures the park district has suggested. The swimmers itch in Valley lake is really bad. There is a little girl on the lake who after following all the park district instructions was affected so badly she had multiple trips to the doctor’s office. She has scars all up and down on her arms now a year later. I am not fear mongering: if you would like to know who it is private message me.

    I would encourage any Mom to be careful until the park district takes care of this. My parents live on the lake and my 3 kids 6,4, and 2 swam on that lake everyday. I loved that we didn’t have to fear motorized boats and the kids swam and kayaked the whole thing. Two of my kids have been severely effected. One seems immune (like Ben). We would do anything to keep swimming in the lake. Beautiful days pass while no one is using the lake. I ran into 2 other moms and their families yesterday at the Grayslake pool who live on Valley Lake. They can’t use the lake they live on because of the terrible problem we have on the lake.

    It is really hard to hear board members like Ben Richards say, “Well, I have swum in lakes for 30 years and it doesn’t effect me.” This statement is unfortunately a greater reflection of how the board thinks. It doesn’t affect me or my family so its not a big deal. Well, it effects almost everyone in my family and especially my poor children who are up all night itching.

    Moms should know the Swimmer’s Itch Guard the park district has recommended and set up rebates for contains Almond Oil and would be a severe allergen to some children using it and to others even swimming near these people. This product also gets 1 star on amazon for effectiveness.

    Moms should also know that with each exposure to the parasite a person or child’s reaction to the bites gets worse. Even if you don’t have the bites the parasites could have still burrowed into your skin.

    There is also a petition of 100 residents we presented to the board who want the lake treated with copper sulfate to kill the snails. Loch Lomond in Mundelien 5 miles south treats their lake with Copper Sulfate every year to control swimmer’s itch and is very successful with no ill effects to plant life or fish. They have been doing it since 1997. They have a lifegaurded beach and swimming lessons. They have a loch fest and boat races.

    We have talked to 2 companies who are confident they could treat the lake and do it successfully without harm to the fish or plants. They have mentioned all the things that Paul Gewalt rightly said earlier like the issues of alkalinity and algae. Paul is very right that those things need to be considered to do a proper treatment which is why doing it professionally with someone as knowledgeable as Paul would have great effects for the lake and like he said eradicate the snails causing this problem.

    The redear sunfish the park district is putting in probably won’t survive and even if they did won’t make a dent in the swimmer’s itch problem. This is from the Assistant Chief of Fisheries of the IL DNR…
    “Redear are a southern species and generally don’t do well in northern IL. The biologists don’t stock them there nearly as often as in S.IL. Also, while they do eat snails (they are called shell crackers in the southern states), they would not eat enough to impact the “swimmer’s itch” problem in a lake.”

    Copper Sulfate is not illegal as the board claims and was used on Valley Lake for over 40 years. There are many lakes in our immediate area using copper sulfate. In 2013 documented from the Acquatic Plant Management Report of Minnesota there were over 300 lakes that used copper sulfate for swimmers itch with over 1,500 permits issued. There were even more issued for algae control. In Michigan there were 2,008 permits issued for the use of copper sulfate.

    Copper Sulfate was actually used last week on Valley Lake by Integrated Lakes Management Company and no plants or fish were harmed. What we did see was dead snails! This was the first time. It is unclear if the park district knew or not. I hope the park district will continue to allow the company to use it so we can get back to using the lake.

    Maybe as Moms we could see this lake get back to the gem it is. A non-motorized recreational lake where our kids could swim safely. Maybe we could have a kid fest. I would love to organize it once the lake gets back. Let’s hope!

    Another important note. The reason the swimmers itch problem is so bad on Valley Lake is because the park district installed a drain at the south end of the lake 10 years ago. The drain has been pumping phosphorus and nitrates into the lake. Ecoli is also streaming in from the drain closing the beach periodically. The ecoli level was recently 920 when 200 would close the beach. The phosphorus was 6 times the state average. Snails feed off this pollutant runoff and snails exposed to the phosphorus run off are larger in number, larger in size, and give off a greater number of parasites. Integrated Lakes Management said Valley Lake had the worst case of snails it had ever seen. The Illinois Health Department is now looking into the drain.

    I am a Mom of 3 young kids and as you can probably tell I have spent a lot of time researching this because I love Valley Lake and only want to see it used once again! Please message me or comment.

    An open discussion can only lead to good sharing of ideas and information.

  • Mel

    The bottom line is that the lake should be a place where all people can swim, as it used to be. Clearly it is not that place anymore. I live on the lake and I am afraid to use it like I used to, or have people over to use it like we used to. I’m afraid to let my children in it because I don’t want to take that risk. It has turned into a “look but don’t touch” lake. That is not okay. Furthermore, myself and my neighbors are caught in the middle of a personal feud between the board members, and the residents that have crusaded for the treatment of the lake, just because the board members don’t like the way the residents went about it. Again, this is not okay. Take care of the lake, that’s the first priority. It is a volunteer position to be a board member, then do what’s right. Please. If you can’t separate your personal agendas against a handful of residents from your responsibility to ALL residents, then please step down. Something significant needs to be done to fix this lake, even if you or your guests aren’t part of the population that is affected.