MARK KIESLING: It's not Mexico, but don't drink the water anyway

2012-07-22T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: It's not Mexico, but don't drink the water anyway
July 22, 2012 12:00 am

There are apparently a number of ways to look at the water crisis in Sauk Village.

For those of you who have been out of town or living in a cave, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency told the village on July 16 its water supply exceeded acceptable levels of vinyl chloride.

Illinois says "the maximum contaminant level for drinking water is two parts per billion (gallons)," said Jim Czarnik, the village engineer. The IEPA informed the village it had hit 1.68 parts per billion.

"I am going to bring other water, water from the city (of Chicago)," said Moon Wong, owner of Chungshan Chef Chinese restaurant on Sauk Trail. "I put it in barrels, 5 gallons.

"I bring five of them every morning. I figure 25 gallons should get me through the day," said the resident of the city's Bridgeport neighborhood.

"They (Sauk Village officials) asked us to use bottled water or out of town water for about three or four weeks," he said. "We're lucky they let us remain open. We'd lose a lot of business."

There are those who use little water in food preparation, and such is the case at Shark's Fish and Chicken, at 16 Sauk Plaza.

"Our drinking water is all bottled water," owner Yazeed Shaban said. "To wash our utensils, we still use tap water but add bleach, then wash them off.

"I'm telling you, I've known something was wrong for years. I lived in Sauk Village, and I used to wash my clothes at a Laundromat outside Sauk Village."

Down the street at Tom's Village Tap, 2408 Sauk Trail, the afternoon crowd was much more blase about the news that has had the village in its crosshairs for a week.

Tom, the owner since 1982, was out of town when I stopped in but showed up on the evening news and said the IEPA had told him the water is safe to drink, but that the level of vinyl chloride triggered a mandatory response warning.

"It's safe to wash dishes, safe to take a shower, safe to drink," said a patron who has worked for the village and was reluctant to give his name.

"I don't want no repercussions," he said. "I think you know how that works." Yes, I do.

"I've been out here since 1958," he said. "And I still continue to drink it. We test the water every two weeks."

Still, not everyone remains so sure.

As I was leaving Shark's, Shaban yelled at me: "Do you want a bottle of water?" When I declined, he said, "It's not Sauk Village water!"

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 933-4170.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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