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Residents angry over alleged tainted water

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fear and outrage over reports people in one suburb drank water from a contaminated well without knowing it for decades, drew hundreds of people to two meetings on the controversy Saturday.

People in Crestwood confronted their mayor during one of those community meetings.

The mayor of Crestwood says the 11,000 residents of his town have nothing to worry about but that's not deflating their fears. Longtime residents are wondering whether illnesses were caused by contaminated water. And town leaders are facing a credibility crisis.

"The bottomline is they don't know so I'm upset because we're going to be lab rats for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years," said Crestwood resident Wendy Brunette.

The morning meeting was meant to calm concerns. Instead it brought a flood of complaints, not to mention anger directed at Crestwood's mayor.

"Mayor, as you grew up what kind of water did you have delivered to your house?" asked one resident.

"The water I had was the same water everyone else drank, " said Robert Stranczek, Crestwood Mayor.

Crestwood, like almost every town in the Chicagoland area, gets its water from Lake Michigan. But from 1986 until 2007 the village supplemented its supply with water from this well that the Illinois EPA says was contaminated with industrial chemicals.

Records indicate well water typically made-up 10-percent of Crestwood's drinking water supply. In the early 90s it was closer to 20-percent.

"They are industrial solvents used to do the most heavy duty kinds of industrial cleaning. They do not belong in the human body," said Sean Collins, Attorney.

At a forum Saturday night --organized by the Crestwood residents who blew the whistle on the well-water-- there's talk of a class action lawsuit and concerns that unexplained cancers may be connected.

"For our family for the last year and a half it's just been heartbreaking and emotional," said Anita Visser, whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

"This is an intentional poisoning of more than 11,000 people. And they wanted it to die, wanted the story to go bye-bye," said Tim Janecyk, Crestwood whistleblower.

The Illinois EPA cited Crestwood for operating an illegal well and knowingly providing false information about the source of its water.

Still, Mayor Robert Stranczek -- whose father ran the town for decades -- says residents have nothing to worry about.

In this letter he writes "the public's health was never at risk." Congressman Bobby Rush is asking federal EPA inspectors to confirm that claim.

"He's lied about so much right now I think the mayor has very little to no credibility," said Rep. Bobby Rush, (D) South Side and South Suburbs.

The congressman says a team from the U.S. EPA will come to Crestwood on may 9th to answer residents' questions. The head of the Illinois EPA said earlier this week that the public's health was never at risk. This well has been shutdown since 2007 and "all" of Crestwood's water now comes from Lake Michigan.

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