Some of the residents of Crestwood, Illinois, are outraged. If the findings of an investigation published in the Chicago Tribune earlier this month are to be believed, then it would mean that village officials have been knowingly drawing drinking water from a contaminated well for more than two decades.
A community meeting was called to discuss these alleged findings last Saturday. Mayor Robert Stranczek was there, as were more than 200 village residents. The Mayor insisted during the meeting that the townâ€™s drinking water was safe. â€œThe water is safe today, will be safe tomorrow, and will be safe into the future,â€ Stranckzek insisted. Whether everyone believed him is a hanging question; those who attended Saturdayâ€™s meetings had mixed reactions.
The controversy began with a story run by the Chicago Tribune on April 19. It exposed the fact that apparently Crestwood officials knew all along that there was a contamination in the well. State environmental officials had warned them as far back as 1986 that dangerous chemicals related to a dry-cleaning solvent have contaminated the water. Back then, officials told state regulators that they will only use the well as back-up and buy treated water from Lake Michigan â€“ but village records show that they did not exactly do that. There were times that the village relied on the well for up to 20% of its drinking water.
This may be another case of nothing is too good to be true. Crestwood was once touted as the â€œbest-run town in Americaâ€, and they offered the cheapest water rates in Cook County. But critics are indicating that the only reason the water came cheap is that they regularly used contaminated water so that they do not have to purchase everything.
It was not until December 2007 that the well was shut off completely after the EPA tested the water. It was the first time they did so in twenty years. The reason why there was such a long interval is that the village had already stated that they will not be using the well for reasons other than backup, which meant that there was no need for the water to be tested regularly.
The story caught me off-guard. If we cannot trust officials, then who can we trust? Maybe, to be sure, we will need to proactively test our water, if we cannot trust our leaders to be up front with us about these things.