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BRAIDWOOD, Ill. (CBS) –- Federal officials on Thursday held a meeting to address concerns residents have over several safety issues and a possible threat to the drinking water.

The questions on the table: Is the local nuclear reactor safe, and can the company operating it be trusted? 2 Investigator Dave Savini reports.

Residents have so much fear that federal regulators overseeing Exelon’s handling of Illinois nuclear plants went to Braidwood for a first-of-its-kind meeting. 

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn’t normally discus a safety investigation before it’s complete, but it is now after an alarm that warns plant workers of possible trouble wasn’t wired properly. Also, a flaw was discovered in the plant’s backup water-supply pipe in March.

“There is room for improvement, in terms of equipment reliability,” Exelon’s Dan Enright says.

Some residents say they are afraid because for years a leaking pipe emitted 6 million gallons of water that had a radioactive substance called tritium into the ground yet residents were not warned.

They’re also concerned about what they said sounded like an explosion last summer, followed by thick white steam blanketing the neighborhood.

Tom and Judy Zimmer were among the residents who wanted to hear what the NRC has now discovered and whether it will cause them further problems.

“I came out here completely perfectly healthy, and now I’m not,” says Judy Zimmer, who has battled kidney cancer.

The Zimmer’s former neighbor, Don Burns, is suffering from multiple illnesses. 

“What’s happening to me is a slow death,” he says.

Burns and the Zimmers blame the Braidwood nuclear plant’s tritium leak and fear their well water was contaminated.

Exelon bought Don Burns’ property, but the Zimmers, who live next door, say the company won’t buy theirs and they can’t sell it. The tritium leak was disclosed just as they laid the last tiles in their new dream home.

“Had I known about that I wouldn’t have built the house that I did and put our life savings in it,” Tom Zimmmer says.

David Kraft heads a nuclear watchdog group, NEIS, in Chicago. He says Illinois has the most reactors and radioactive waste and yet the NRC is not policing them aggressively enough.

Exelon’s Enright says the public health was not at risk.

NRC officials say Exelon fixed the alarm problems and the back-up pipes that appeared to be flawed.  The official investigation is ongoing.