Jan 23, 2004

Northern Illinois Well Water Tainted by Chemical

Residents Urged to Drink Bottled Water for Now

Federal and state environmental officials are trying to determine how Wauconda, Ill., well water became contaminated with vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic chemical.

Until the situation is resolved, about 200 residents who live in the area have been advised to drink bottled water.

Vinyl chloride is used to make plastic and can cause liver and kidney damage in humans.

"The levels we found would not be expected to cause adverse health effects, but we recommended if they wanted to reduce their exposure," they should drink bottled water, said Michael Kuhn, a solid-waste specialist at the Lake County Health Department.

The chemical is believed to be leaking from a 60-acre Superfund landfill site located about about a quarter-mile from the 110-home Hillcrest subdivision, county officials said.

"We don't have enough information yet or decent data to conclude it's coming from the landfill, but the landfill appears to be the candidate," said Mick Hans, a spokesman for the Midwest region of the EPA. Another possible source of the contamination could be illegal dumping, officials said.

Tests conducted by the Health Department on 20 wells in the subdivision showed contamination in seven wells to be at or above the safe drinking water standard of 2.0 parts per billion for the chemical, officials said.

On Thursday EPA officials announced that the remaining 90 wells in the subdivision would be tested. EPA also intends to conduct additional testing to verify the cause of the leak, a process that could take weeks.

The firm representing the party responsible for the Superfund site, Conestoga-Rover & Associates of Minneapolis, has agreed to provide bottled water to the owners of any homes with wells found to be contaminated.