University Park residents continue to depend on bottled water after elevated lead levels were discovered in their drinking water several weeks ago and because no noticeable improvements have been made, some locals decided to hold a town hall meeting Monday to address the issues.
The mayor had declared a state of emergency last month, while Aqua Illinois asked its residents to run their faucets as part of a new treatment protocol put in place.
Still, water bills are halted for now until the problem is solved but frustration among affected residents is about to boil over, as talks Monday evening hinted at a possible march taking place on the regional headquarters of the water utility.
Aqua did not immediately respond to NBC 5’s request for comment and was a no-show at Monday’s meeting but Illinois and US EPA officials confirmed it all began when Aqua used a chemical to reduce iron in the water and, as a so called “unintended consequence,” released lead from old pipes into the water.
Testing has also proven it could be very hazardous to consume.
Initially, the utility told all its residents who were ever impacted by a “do-not-consume” order that they would have their water and sewer bills waived for the month of June.
The company said they'd provide free lead testing of drinking water, free blood testing to all impacted residents, and free lead testing for homes, in addition to continuing to deliver bottled water.
Running faucets will apply a new protective coating on pipes in homes, according to the company, but did caution that it could take weeks for the treatment to take full effect.
Aqua Illinois President Craig Blanchette issued a statement to residents at the end of June, apologizing for the situation and emphasizing the steps the company is taking moving forward.
“My team and I have talked to many of you and I want you to know that I hear you loud and clear,” Blanchette said. “You’re frustrated, scared, and angry. And you have my commitment that we will work hard every day to regain your trust and deliver the high-quality water that Aqua is known for and that you deserve.”