SAUK VILLAGE | A Joliet attorney said Monday he is seeking Sauk Village residents to join a class action lawsuit contending the exposure of local residents to water tainted with vinyl chloride amounts to civil battery and trespass.
Attorney Stephen Saporta said he was motivated to file a lawsuit by the way in which village officials informed the community about the problem.
The lawsuit was filed Friday in Cook Count Circuit Court against Sauk Village municipal government. It contends the village “committed a civil battery to the extent plaintiffs experienced an unwarranted touching of their persons by ingesting and otherwise coming into contact with said contaminated water.”
It also states having contaminated water enter a person’s property “amounted to a taking of the property” and is in violation of the Illinois Constitution and U.S. Constitution.
Saporta said he thinks conflicting messages are being given out as to how safe the water is to use in any form.
“People are justifiably confused by all of this, and I’m trying to get them some answers,” he said.
The lawsuit, seeking damages of at least $50,000, points out residents are learning of problems with the local water supply at a time when temperatures are reaching nearly 100 degrees.
The lawsuit is the second to be filed against the village in the days since the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said vinyl chloride levels had become so high in all three of the village’s wells used for water that local officials were required to alert residents and take action. One well was shut down in 2009, but officials had thought the water in the two remaining wells was acceptable.
Last week, village resident Derrick Holt said in his lawsuit filed in Cook County court he is dealing with cancer, and said the village’s failure to provide a suitable fresh water supply amounts to negligence.
Saporta said that lawsuit will remain separate from his.
“Someone with specific health circumstances ought to be dealt with separately,” he said. “Although we are sympathetic to him.”
Federal EPA officials have a standard of 2 parts per billion that requires local officials to reduce contamination. Illinois EPA requires notification of the public if a lower level of 1 part per billion is reached. Recent tests of the Sauk Village wells found levels of 1.68 parts per billion.
The village this weekend distributed bottled water to local residents, spending $37,000 to purchase the bottled water, although the Ultra Foods and Food-4-Less grocery chains also made donations of bottled water to the village.
Village Trustee Derrick Burgess said he was “embarrassed” by the sight of water being distributed in his hometown.
“This should not have happened the way it did,” Burgess said, explaining village officials have known for some time there was potential for problems with the water.
“We should have dealt with this problem a long time ago. Now, we’re going to have to deal with it.”
Neither Burgess nor Village Trustee David Hanks would comment on the lawsuits, although neither was surprised to learn of their existence.
“I expect there are going to be a lot of lawsuits,” Burgess said.