Some suburban residents woke up to bottled water on their front steps and a dire warning not to drink water from their taps due to elevated lead levels.
On Saturday, water utility company Aqua Illinois announced that they had found elevated levels of lead in the water of several communities in the south suburbs. Some residents in University Park, Green Garden, and Monee were given notices of the lead issue, and the message unnerved some consumers.
“The first thing that came to my mind was the situation in Flint, Michigan,” University Park resident Sarah Boyd said.
The notice, given via robocall, said that elevated lead levels had been discovered in the water and advised residents not to drink it, even if they own water filters.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are requesting that all University Park, Green Garden, and Monee Township customers not drink, cook, or use tap water for brushing teeth,” the utility company said in a letter Saturday. “You may still use water from the tap to bathe or wash hands.”
On Saturday evening, the company announced that it will implement a treatment protocol in the area, flushing hydrants in the impacted communities, but residents are upset that they weren’t notified of the situation sooner, and some worry that they may have been consuming water with elevated lead levels for long periods of time.
“(They said) they don’t know how long it’s been in the water,” University Park resident Ramolita Lake said. “Til further notice, that’s exactly what they’re saying.”
Residents are advised that they may see some water discoloration, and that it is a normal part of the flushing process. The company believes some areas aren’t impacted by the elevated lead levels, and in the process of resampling the water for testing they are hoping to clear some residents to begin drinking their water again.
Consumers are advised to consult the Aqua Illinois website and the company’s customer service center if they have additional questions.
Lead exposure through contaminated water, which can be especially harmful to children and pregnant women, can cause brain damage, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems later in life.