Court order keeps clean water flowing in Sauk Village

2013-03-08T12:30:00Z 2013-03-09T00:41:15Z Court order keeps clean water flowing in Sauk VillageBob Moulesong Times Correspondent
March 08, 2013 12:30 pm  • 

SAUK VILLAGE | The village of Sauk Village has come to an agreement with the Illinois attorney general’s office regarding equipment to provide safe drinking water to village residents.

A court order filed Wednesday in Cook County says the town must continue using air stripping equipment installed to remove vinyl chloride that was detected in two of the town's wells last summer. The village is in the process of installing permanent air strippers.

Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas used in manufacturing, the long-term exposure to which can increase the risk of cancer. Officials say it's difficult to trace the source.

Under the terms of the consent order entered in Cook County Circuit Court, the village must maintain continuous operation of temporary air-stripping units that were implemented last July after high levels of vinyl chloride were detected in wells No. 1 and No. 2 of its public water supply system.

In addition, the village is prohibited from resuming the use of well No. 3, which has been off-line since 2009 due to the presence of vinyl chloride above the maximum level. Sauk Village also must continue to use the temporary air stripping units and avoid using well No. 3 until it installs the permanent treatment system, all of which is subject to the approval of the IEPA.

“Under this order, Sauk Village officials must continue to provide residents with safe and clean drinking water. In the long term, it’s critical that the village work to implement this plan to ensure that it can reliably provide clean water,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a prepared statement. “My office will closely monitor the situation to ensure the village complies with the court order.”

“The village is in the process of purchasing and installing permanent air strippers to provide safe and clean water for years to come,” interim Village President David Hanks told The Times Thursday evening. “The long-term plan is to obtain Lake Michigan water for our village residents.”

Hanks said it will be a process to obtain lake water.

“Lake water is only possible after major infrastructure improvements can be made to the water supply system,” he said. “The village plan (is) to install permanent air strippers, repair the village’s leaking water supply lines and other infrastructure work that has been reviewed and approved by the IEPA. Our approval plan is contained in the court order.”

The village could have incurred a fine of $50,000 per count of the complaint, plus a maximum fine of $10,000 for every day the violations existed.

“The village fines could have easily exceeded $1 million based upon the length of this litigation,” Hanks said. “In concluding this litigation, the village has agreed to pay a fine of $2,500, which is a significant savings to the village taxpayers.”

The agreement also requires Sauk Village to continue testing water samples, complete a supplemental environmental project, and pay the $2,500 civil penalty.

The agreement resolves a complaint originally filed against the village by Madigan’s office in 2010 and amended in February and July 2012, after the Illinois EPA referred the most recent complaints of vinyl chloride contamination in the public water supply to the attorney general’s office for enforcement.

The second amended complaint specifically alleged that the village was “causing substantial danger to the public health and welfare of persons and to the environment by failing to provide an assuredly safe public water supply.”

Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Pamenter is handling the case for Madigan’s Environmental Bureau.

“The resolution of this complex matter was made possible by the cooperative efforts of our village consultants, Village Attorney Odelson and Sterk, Village Engineer Robinson Engineering, and the Illinois attorney general’s office,” Hanks said. “We are very happy to have completed the litigation portion, and look forward to installing permanent equipment that will provide our residents with clean and healthy water for years to come.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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