Reporting Susanna Song
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Updated 07/18/12 – 3:50 p.m.
SAUK VILLAGE, Ill. (CBS) — There is still no timetable for when the water in Sauk Village will be safe to drink, and some say the only solution may be to start stocking up on bottled water.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Sauk Village Mayor Lewis Towers is still working on an emergency plan, after the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency declared that the village’s water was contaminated with vinyl chloride to the point of being non-potable.
That emergency plan may well mean stocking up on bottled water, and making sure residents have plenty of it.
At a village board meeting, police forcibly removed a woman who challenged Mayor Towers to drink tap water with which she had filled a plastic bottle.
“They’re going to kick me out, the cops going to forcibly take me out? Look at this red spot. Is that how I’m going to be treated?” said the woman, Kerry Fitzsimmons, pointing to a red mark on her arm after police removed her from the meeting.
Fitzsimmons wasn’t the only one demanding answers. Hundreds of residents jammed standing-room-only into the village hall Tuesday evening, seeking answers to the health crisis facing the village of 11,000 people. They want to know how the dangerous vinyl chloride got into the drinking water, and how long it’s been there.
“What has been said is that it’s very harmful to us, and we should not be drinking it, we should not be cooking with it. I’m concerned about even bathing in it,” Sauk Village resident Lavonne McKenzie told CBS 2’s Mike Parker at the meeting.
David Taylor showed us the murky, yellowish water coming out of his faucet, and the brown stains it had left in his bathtub.
“The water is not good for anything out here,” he said.
Meantime, CBS 2′s Marissa Bailey reports village leaders have until Thursday to hand over a three-part plan to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, detailing short- and long-term plans to clean up the drinking water, as well as how they’ll provide free bottled water to residents.
Rose Brown said the water is so bad, it has repeatedly corroded her kitchen sink.
“This is like the third sink we’ve put in since we’ve moved here,” Brown said.
It’s also forced her to buy huge amounts of bottled water.
“We went through like five cases of water already in maybe, like, two days,” Brown said.
Sheila Zin said, “Sometimes it’s so visible brown, it looks like an orange kind of color.
On Wednesday, Zin said the water from her faucet had a film on the surface, even after it had been boiled.
Neighbors have been told to avoid drinking the water, or even bathing in it. Some residents said they can do laundry in it, but clothes are ruined after a few washes.
“It is a basic necessity of life,” Zin said. “I buy about $60 worth of water per month here, and it’s still not enough, and that’s for us to cook with and to drink. So now we have to take baths. I can’t afford buy water to take baths.”
Harold Brown said he can’t afford to live without a water filtration system. His system’s white filter turned brown after just two weeks.
“I can’t really say it’s dangerous, but I think it is; my opinion that is,” he said.
Bottled water delivery trucks were seen all over Sauk Village today, even in front of the village hall/
Mayor Towers said Tuesday evening that he might have to provide bottled water for all residents.
“That’s a possibility,” he said. “At this time, we haven’t confirmed anything yet, because we’re still working with the IEPA and the Attorney General on those things.”
Exposure to vinyl chloride can cause kidney or liver damage but health officials reportedly think the level in Sauk Village’s water is too low to hurt anyone.
In March, the village approved a plan to replace the wells with Lake Michigan water, but that could take a few more years.