University Park to pass emergency declaration over lead levels in water

CHICAGO - Lead found in University Park’s drinking water.

It’s a private company, not local government that supplies water to that suburb and others across portions of Cook, Kane, Kankakee, Lake and Will counties.

Last Friday, Aqua Illinois issued a “Do Not Consume” order to customers in University Park. Nearly a week later, WGN Investigates has learned 1,500 households are still affected.

Mayor Joseph Roudez III says Aqua promised at the time to correct the problem within days, and now his patience is running thin.

“Those days have passed,” he says.

That’s why the mayor and the village’s Board of Trustees are taking the drastic step of meeting Saturday to pass a “Declaration of Emergency”

“It gives us the opportunity to seek federal and state funding in case this gets even bigger than what we anticipated,” Roudez says. “This is a safeguard for the village and the residents of this community.”

WGN Investigates sent an open records request to University Park for results of water tests going back to 2017. But the village says such documents don’t exist. And that’s the crux of the problem: Aqua has never shared water quality test results.

The company now speculates changes to water treatment may have changed the water’s chemistry, allowing for lead in older pipes to reach homes. But Mayor Roudez says one week in, speculation isn’t enough.

“I’ve asked them why but they don’t have the answers for me yet,” he says.

One resident tells WGN Investigates that testing at her home showed levels of more than 400 parts per billion. At a level of 15 parts per billion, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends the water not be consumed.

“We’ve been drinking this water for so long – who knows?,” says Leon Jamison, a University Park resident. “It could’ve been in there [a long time].”

Mayor Roudez also is asking Aqua to pay for a minority-owned company to independently test the water. Through a spokeswoman, Aqua says it’s working to comply with that request.

Aqua would not release specifics about its own lead level testing, other than to say it’s “actively analyzing results” and that it will release additional information when available.

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