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7 Months Later, Some University Park Residents Still Using Bottled Water Over Lead Worries

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- Seven months later, residents of University Park say they still can't trust their water.

CBS 2 has been tracking the water issues in the south suburb since May, when high levels of lead were first reported. On Wednesday night, heading into the holiday season, residents told CBS 2's Tara Molina they have had it.

Molina asked one University Park family to describe where they are in one word. They chose "frustrated," and it's not hard to see why.

The family is still relying on bottled water deliveries that are dropped off at their front door. And at this point given how cold it's been, they have to worry about their bottled water freezing outside.

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Lonnie Cross, 12, has been brushing her teeth using bottled water for months. It's an unwelcome new normal, with her family relying on bottled water for just about everything.

"In order to drink, in order to prepare food," said Lonnie's father, Lonzo Cross.

It's because they don't trust the tap.

Back in May, University Park's water provider, Aqua Illinois, found high levels of lead in the water and issued a notice to residents warning not to drink it.

"It's unacceptable that this problem has been occurring for so long," Cross said.

Aqua is facing a lawsuit, filed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul back in August, alleging that changes the company made to the public water supply caused lead to be released.

The suit also claims the company failed to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements and violated construction and operating permit requirements.

The most recent order in the Will County civil case required Aqua – among other things – to go on providing alternative sources of water, to submit a report to the state about the corrosion control studies it has been conducting, and to complete those studies no later than Nov. 30.

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While working on the full fix, Aqua has told residents they can drink the water if they run it for 2 to 3 minutes, then filter it. But Cross and his family say they will not do any such thing.

"I won't drink the water, even with a PUR filter on it," Cross said.

On Wednesday night, Aqua Illinois president Craig Blanchette issued a statement saying conditions are improving:

"The percent of compliance-sampled homes that are now testing at or below the EPA threshold for lead has doubled since July – reaching 80 percent this week. These results continue to show the water quality in University Park is improving and corroborate that our treatment is working. Since the beginning, we have acted with openness and transparency with a focus on our customers. As we move forward, we remain committed to doing all we can to be a good community partner and working with regulators and the nation's leading water experts to build on our progress until this is resolved."

But Lonzo Cross said after seven months, he and his family are not holding their breath.

"It needs to be corrected 100 percent," he said. "Every resident in the community needs to be able to consume their water. That's just an expectation."

Still, Aqua has no timeline, and families like the Crosses don't have an idea of when they'll stop relying on bottled water.

We will, of course, continue to track this story and update you as it develops.

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