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1,500 Homes Still Under "Do Not Consume" Advisory Due To Lead In Water In University Park

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hundreds of University Park residents are avoiding tap water for the fourth straight night, after a utility company found high lead levels in some of the water.

The water utility company, Aqua Illinois, said about 1,500 homes east of Interstate 57 are still under a "do not consume" advisory. Anyone west of I-57 is now safe to drink the water, the company said.

"It's kind of nerve-wracking," University Park resident Gloria Woolfolk said. "The water's out, or the water's not any good. So you're just in limbo."

Woolfolk made her Monday morning coffee with bottled water, which Aqua Illinois distributed door-to-door to affected residents.

The company said a bi-annual test showed elevated lead levels in 15 homes, and to be safe it told thousands of people not to drink the water while other homes are tested. The company got the initial results Thursday and started telling residents Friday just before 5 p.m.

CBS 2 asked Aqua Illinois President Craig Blanchette why the company didn't notify customers Thursday night.

"Well, on Thursdsay we got the results. We brought the people together to analyze them, and as soon as we knew the results really represented something that we thought could be real, we sent out an emergency notification," Blanchette said.

The company won't say where those 15 homes are, but it says so far they are the only homes where they found concerning lead levels.

The company is still testing east of I-57 and does not know when those homes will be cleared.

Blanchette said the company is still investigating the cause, and couldn't say what the company can do to prevent this from happening again.

"Once we determine the root cause of the issue, and determine what steps are necessary to eliminate it, then we can make those recommendations," he said.

Aqua Illinois has provided water to University Park for more than 30 years.

Its parent company, Aqua America, has earned a D rating with the Better Business Bureau for allegedly failing to respond to 11 complaints filed against it. In the past three years, the company has gotten 62 complaints about billing issues and 58 about problems with a product or service, according to the BBB.

"Aqua is responsible for this entire fiasco," University Park Mayor Joseph Roudez said.

Roudez, who took office last month, said he is trying to organize informational public meetings with Aqua to answer residents' questions.

He said many residents already were upset with Aqua due to what they consider high rates.

When asked whether the village is considering whether to sever ties with Aqua or go in a different direction, Roudez replied, "There's always something to look at."

Officials said anyone under the "do not consume" advisory should avoid drinking, cooking with, brushing teeth with, or preparing formula with the water. The homes still under the advisory are in University Park and unincorporated Monee Township.

Anyone in Arbors at Hickory Creek, Fairway Clubs, Pine Woods Court, Governors State University and anywhere west of I-57 is safe to drink the water, according to Aqua.


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