Illinois Atty. General Sues Crestwood, Ill., Over Contaminated Water

June 10, 2009
Nine-count lawsuit alleges the village knowingly distributed contaminated water

On June 9, Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against the Village of Crestwood, Mayor Robert Stranczek, former Mayor Chester Stanczek and Frank Scaccia, the former certified operator of the Crestwood Water Supply, for failing to provide assuredly safe water to the customers of the water supply and for knowingly providing false information about the water supply to residents and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).

The Crestwood Water Supply serves more than 11,000 people through more than 3,000 connections to residential customers and 600 commercial and industrial customers. According to Madigan’s lawsuit, in late 1985, Crestwood officials became aware that Crestwood’s well #1 was contaminated with volatile organic chemicals. Despite that information, Crestwood officials allegedly continued adding water from well #1 to the public water supply. They continued this practice until 2007. Throughout this period, Crestwood officials allegedly covered up the use of the contaminated well by falsely assuring residents and the IEPA that the village was not using the well.

“Crestwood officials violated the public’s trust and the laws designed to protect public health,” said Madigan. “For years, Crestwood officials failed to ensure that the water supply was safe and repeatedly failed to disclose to residents and the IEPA that the village was using water from the contaminated well as part of the public water supply. Through this lawsuit, we are seeking to hold these officials accountable for their conduct and to make sure that this does not happen again in Illinois.”

In November 1985 and August 1986, samples taken from the Village of Crestwood’s well #1 revealed the presence of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in the water. Despite this contamination, Crestwood obtained drinking water from well #1 each and every year from Oct. 1, 1985 through Sept. 30, 2007. Instead of reporting this use of well #1, from 1986 to 2008, Crestwood officials reported annually that the village’s only source of water was Lake Michigan water purchased from the Village of Alsip.

Madigan’s complaint alleges that the defendants failed to operate Crestwood’s public water supply in a way that would assure that the water was safe and clean. Specifically, the suit charges that the defendants allowed well #1 to be contaminated and failed to follow the laws requiring testing of public water systems for inorganic chemicals, VOCs and synthetic organic chemicals. Instead of performing the legally required testing to determine the safety of the well water being added to the public water supply, the defendants made repeated misrepresentations to the IEPA that the well was used only as an emergency backup well, rather than as a source of water delivered to customers, and therefore did not require testing.

The suit also alleges that the defendants repeatedly misled residents and the IEPA by failing to inform them that Crestwood was adding water from the contaminated well to the drinking water supply. As required by law, Crestwood provided to water customers and the IEPA an annual drinking water quality consumer confidence report, which included information on the source of drinking water in the distribution system. Madigan’s suit alleges that from 1999 through 2008, the reports made no mention of well #1 as a source of drinking water.

Crestwood now maintains that it stopped using water from the well as a source of drinking water as of October 2007. The village permanently abandoned, capped and rendered the well inoperable on March 20, 2009.

Madigan’s complaint contains nine counts against some or all of the defendants.

Source: Illinois Attorney General's Office (photo from David Pierini, Chicago Tribune)

Photo 217285685 © Noipornpan |
Image courtesy Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ).