UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. (CBS) — First homes, now schools – lead problems in University Park have now caught the attention of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Raoul is now filing a lawsuit against water supplier Aqua Illinois. On Friday night, CBS 2’s Tara Molina tracked down worried parents and fed-up residents.
The Illinois’ Attorney General’s office was joined by the Will County State’s Attorney’s office in filing the lawsuit. While residents are happy to hear Aqua is being held accountable, what they really want is safe, usable water.
You may take safe, usable water for granted until you’re forced to live without it for three months like Pamelia Roby’s family.
“Someone needs to do something about it. It should have been done a long time ago, but they really need to do something about it,” Roby said. “It’s absurd. They wouldn’t live in this mess.”
Roby’s family’s home is one of hundreds in University Park relying on bottled water for their own safety. They have to use the bottled water to drink, cook, clean and brush their teeth, because the tap water is contaminated with lead.
“I’m worried about my health; the health of my child,” Roby said. “It’s disgusting.”
There is no safe level of lead in drinking water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And children are at an even higher risk – lead exposure can lead to irreversible brain damage and long-term consequences.
That’s why families, pulling up to University Park’s Coretta Scott King Elementary and checking on teacher assignments, had something else top of mind heading into the school year.
“The number one concern is the safety of your family and your children,” said Marcel Fears.
“I’ve always sent her to school with water bottles just to be on the safer side,” said Dorian Durham.
The parents told CBS 2 they have already been notified of the water issues at the school, and the school’s plan to combat them.
“There needs to a level of accountability,” Fears said.
The lawsuit filed Friday follows months and months of pleas for help and packed public meetings – and still, no safe water.
According to that lawsuit, problems started in 2017, when Aqua switched the Village’s water source to the Kankakee River.
The lawsuit alleges that Aqua moved forward with construction and operations at the river without securing required permits, and then started providing that water to thousands of residents before securing that permit to do so.
The suit goes on to claim Aqua introduced a blended phosphate into the public water system to improve the taste before receiving the permit.
Pamelia Roby’s message to Aqua is simple – it’s time to step up.
“It’s not fair that we have to live in this. We’re working-class citizens and we should have nice to water to drink; to bathe in; to wash our hair,” she said.
CBS 2 is told that Aqua is working with regulatory agencies to clear the issue up, and that they been in constant contact with the community. The expectation is that safe drinking water will be coming as soon as possible.
CBS 2 will track that closely.