Whistleblowers talk about contaminated water
May 4, 2009 (CRESTWOOD, Ill.) (WLS) -- As federal agents begin an investigation, ABC7 talks to the two people who uncovered the contaminated tap water in suburban Crestwood.
The federal investigation is looking at the case as a possible environmental crime.
But the story started with a man, Tim Janecyk, who was angry with police and politics in Crestwood after his wife was arrested for leaving their child in the car while she put money in a Salvation Army kettle in 2007.
Janecyk joined forces with Tricia Krause, a woman who has spent years trying to convince others that something in Crestwood caused her children to develop cancer.
For Janecyk, the motivation was revenge, at least at first.
"They knew what they did was wrong. They knew it before they took my wife to jail," said Tim Janecyk, whistleblower.
Just before Christmas 2007, Janecyk's wife - Ellen Treffly Coyne - drove their three daughters to the Crestwood Wal-Mart to put some money in the Salvation Army kettle.
Coyne left her youngest daughter -- 22 months -- locked in the car, which was no more than 10 yards away, for just a few minutes. Crestwood police charged Coyne with child endangerment in a case that grabbed national attention. Though the charge was later dropped, Janecyk and his wife never got the apology they felt they deserved, and Janecyk decided he'd zero in on government in Crestwood.
"I'm going to get you. I'm going to watch you. I knew what kind of people they were," said Janecyk.
Internet discussion about his wife's arrest one day last year led Janecyk to an online post: Is it just me or does the water in Crestwood taste like it's half well water, half city water?
Janecyk developed sources who said that the village was using this well for a portion of its water supply even though chemical contaminants had raised red flags with the village and EPA as far back as 20-years ago. Janecyk's work stalled until last summer when an internet search took him to Tricia Krause.
"I really didn't know what we were going to find," said Tricia Krause, whistleblower.
Krause has spent the last decade pursuing possible environmental links with childhood cancers in the southwest suburbs.
She filed numerous Freedom of Information Requests with Crestwood. Last December, she received a box of documents that would ultimately show Crestwood had used water from the tainted well to supplement a water supply the village had claimed was 100-percent from Lake Michigan.
Last week, as agents from the US EPA's criminal division raided village offices, Krause and Janecyk were there to watch.
"I had a sense of elation because we worked so hard to find the truth and now someone was finally listening to us," said
Janecyk says pursuing revenge is unhealthy. He wrestles with that, but not with what two parents were ultimately able to learn and tell the public.
"We've gone through highs and lows from wanting to throw this stuff in the garbage and go on with our lives go on without that mission, but you look at your kids every night and say to yourself - not in my kids' world," said Janecyk.
The Village of Crestwood insists that chemical contaminants in the well water were always within acceptable limits and that Crestwood water was never unhealthy to drink. Statements from the Illinois EPA support that.
But many residents are skeptical because of the presence of some chemical compounds for which there is no acceptable limit, and because Crestwood said for years its water was 100% from Lake Michigan when documents say that wasn't true.
The third part of the equation-- Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune, who gave the story attention and brought it to the public.
local, paul meincke
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