UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. — It’s been over three months since University Park residents were warned not to drink the water because of elevated levels of brain-damaging lead.
Aqua Illinois, the town’s supplier, claims water quality has improved, thanks to ongoing treatment.
But residents like Ruth Redmon remain skeptical. She asked WGN Investigates to have her water tested independently, a request WGN heard from many in the suburb.
“We don’t want to hear what Aqua says,” Mayor Joseph Roudez said. “We’ve heard that side already. We want to hear what the independent agencies say about our water.”
WGN Investigates obtained water samples from six homes and had them tested for lead at an independent lab in the West Loop. The results showed three were above the federal action limit of 15 parts per billion. Three showed amounts less than the limit.
Dee Jones' home showed the highest level: 88 parts per billion. That’s down from a high of 3,900 parts per billion, according to tests performed by Aqua in July. But it’s still elevated.
“I don't know what's going into my body, or how long this has been going into my body,” she said.
WGN Investigates previously reported that testing by Aqua in August 2018 showed five homes, including Jones’ residence, had elevated lead levels. But Jones said she was never notified back in 2018.
Town officials have said they weren’t told, either.
Aqua has blamed the problem on its changing the suburb’s water source, from well water to the Kankakee River, in 2018. The company added a new treatment chemical to strip out iron in the new system, Aqua Illinois’ President told WGN in July.
WGN Investigates sampled the water Aug. 28.
An Aqua spokeswoman said testing data shows lead levels village-wide have declined since that time. “It is important customers continue using their tap water for the treatment to keep working,” she says.
The state and Will County sued Aqua last month for allegedly not providing safe drinking water.
That lawsuit is still pending.
“Our latest round of water sampling demonstrates consistent improvement as lead levels in University Park have decreased significantly over the past 10 weeks,” the company said in a statement. “In fact, the percent of samples with lead levels below the regulatory action level has nearly doubled since July. This progress confirms the treatment is working.”