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State Stepping In To Clean Sauk Village Water, But Residents Still Frustrated

Sauk Village

Sauk Village residents have to used bottled water due to vinyl chloride contamination. (Credit: CBS)

Marissa Bailey (CBS) Marissa Bailey
Marissa Bailey is the weekend anchor of the CBS 2 Chicago morning...
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SAUK VILLAGE, Ill. (CBS) – The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in to help Sauk Village officials find a way to clean their town’s contaminated water supply.

CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports village leaders told residents of the far south suburb that the water is safe to drink, according to federal guidelines.

But local residents remained doubtful of those claims.

Elevated levels of vinyl chloride in the water have prompted the village to give out free bottled water to local residents since last week. The Illinois EPA and Illinois Attorney General’s office also have been working with the village to find a long-term solution.

The Illinois EPA has agreed to pay for the installation of two air strippers at the village water treatment plant, but that’s only a temporary fix. The devices, designed to send blasts of air through the water to remove the contamination, can clean 500 gallons of water per minute, and should be in place next week.

Meantime, Sauk village volunteer firemen were passing out gallons of bottled water on Wednesday as village officials met with residents to discuss the ongoing problem.

While neighbors are grateful for the bottled water being supplied by the village, patience is running low, even for the kids.

“The water has tasted nasty,” Sheila Heusmann said. “We can shower quickly, but I don’t want you guys taking baths – you know, sitting in it.”

Asked how cautious she is with water, on a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being not very and 10 being very cautious – Jennie Gunn said, “Can I say 12?”

Gunn and her unborn baby boy drink only bottled water, a pricey reality for the young mother.

“I have to make a decision whether I want to buy my family a bag of chicken, or a case of water,” she said.

It was Sauk Village water that members of the Illinois EPA and Public Health Department were answering questions about Wednesday night at a village meeting.

“I want to wash my hair without my hair fallin’ out,” one local resident said.

Neighbors were able to ask questions and vent about the town’s water problems.

Asked if he would drink the village’s water, Illinois EPA interim director John J. Kim said, “if it was up to me right now, I would take up the village on their offer to have bottled water available, and that’s what I would go with until the treatment systems are in place.

A long-term solution for cleaning the town’s water was still in the works as of Wednesday night.