Residents uneasy after carcinogen found in neighborhood’s drinking water

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Sandy Oliver has lived at the Green Meadows Estates for three years. Now, she’s worried, after the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) detected elevated levels of the carcinogen trichloroethlyne (TCE) in her drinking water.

“It’s concerning. It’s very concerning,” she said. “We don’t drink out of the sink. We don’t use it for cooking. We don’t give it to our puppy. We use bottled water. We’ve already gone through a case since we found out.”

The IEPA said the chemical, commonly used as an industrial solvent, was found at the entry point of the water’s distribution system to the Green Meadows Estates at 4650 S Main Street. The mobile home park is home to almost 1,000 people. 

Resident Gene Johnson says he doesn’t have any concerns. “It’s so minor that it wouldn’t bother anyone, anyhow. You can drink 20 gallons of it and it wouldn’t even faze you.”

The IEPA reports TCE levels in the water are measured at 2.5 parts-per-billion, which is still below the safety standard of 5 parts-per-billion. But, it’s still high enough that the IEPA is required to alert the water supplier.

“Any amount is too much,” said Oliver. “I mean, it’s a chemical. We don’t need that going through our water system.”

The water company found out about the issue on Friday, but by law it has five business days to notify residents. Oliver says she’s still waiting on an official notice.

“They haven’t contacted us about it,” she said. “We haven’t heard from them.”

According to the IEPA, exposure to TCE can impact the immune and reproductive systems, liver, kidneys and central nervous system. And, it may even affect fetal development during pregnancy. Long-term exposure can increase the risk of kidney cancer.

“What’s it going to do to us?” Oliver asks. “What has it already done to us? I mean, I’m concerned about showering. Is that going to do something else to us?”

The manager of Green Meadow Estates said the office hasn’t received a notice from anyone about the contamination as of yet.

The neighborhood has a long history of low-level groundwater contamination, going back decades.

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