Illinois AG's office gives Sauk Village deadline

2012-07-18T15:30:00Z 2012-07-19T00:10:40Z Illinois AG's office gives Sauk Village deadlineBy David P. Funk Times Correspondent
July 18, 2012 3:30 pm  • 

SAUK VILLAGE | Local officials have until Thursday to submit a plan that complies with three points stressed by the state attorney general's office in a meeting Tuesday with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Sauk Village board.

An emergency plan must be handed in Thursday to the attorney general's office, Deputy Press Secretary Scott Mulford said.

"If the village does not comply, we are prepared to seek a preliminary injunction to ensure that the village follows the law and works to ensure the safety of its residents," Mulford said.

The IEPA informed the village Monday that it's drinking water was contaminated with vinyl chloride at a level of 1.68 parts per billion. The maximum contaminant level is 1 part per billion.

When contacted Monday afternoon by The Times, Village Engineer Jim Czarnik said the IEPA information was partially correct.

"Actually, the maximum contaminant level for drinking water is 2 parts per billion," Czarnik said. "But when drinking water exceeds half of that, or 1 part per billion, notification steps have to be taken."

Long-term exposure to vinyl chloride can cause kidney or liver damage and increase the risk of cancer. The federal EPA has said that no level of vinyl chloride is safe.

The first point stressed by the attorney general's office is that the board must find a way to provide bottled water to village residents at no cost to address the immediate need for water. At a meeting Tuesday, village trustees did say that a plan will include providing bottled water to residents.

In the short term, the attorney general's office demanded that Sauk Village must explore options to install air stripping devices to treat the water from current wells.

Air stripping is a chemical process used to treat water that removes contaminants.

The last point pressed upon the village at Tuesday's meeting was to continue to pursue a hookup to Lake Michigan water to address the long-term clean-water needs of residents.

The plan Sauk Village turns in must specify that it will be immediately implemented upon approval and provide sufficient bottled water to all residents, Mulford said.

Czarnik has said Sauk Village does have a plan.

"We have a plan to hook up to the city of Chicago Heights and purchase emergency drinking water from them," Czarnik said.

According to Czarnik, the plan to lay a 16-inch pipe and get water from Chicago Heights is in process and will be completed in 2013.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health fact sheet, showering, bathing or cooking with contaminated water can release vinyl chloride into the air, where it can be breathed in. Breathing very high levels of vinyl chloride over several years may cause immune disorders and damage to the liver, kidneys and nerves.

The fact sheet states that residents should avoid drinking water contaminated with vinyl chloride. Installation of an in-home activated carbon filter can remove most of the vinyl chloride from water. Using bottled water also will reduce exposure. If contaminated water is used in the home, residents should ventilate bathrooms and kitchens during and after water use.

Times correspondent Bob Moulesong contributed to this report.

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