Widow Sues Suburb For Tainted, Deadly Water

Crestwood man died at 39 from cancer

A woman widowed by a former Crestwood resident claims the village and its former mayor are liable for her husband's death.

In a suit filed Thursday, the woman claimed that contaminated drinking water caused John Maan De Kok's death. 

Maan De Kok, who lived in Crestwood from 1969 to 1990, received a diagnosis in 2000 of stage IV non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to the suit.

He died three years later at age 39, the Chicago Tribune reported, leaving behind a wife and two young children, said attorney Michael Mertz.

"I think it's unconscionable that the Village of Crestwood and its leaders placed the health of their residents at risk, and I think this family paid the ultimate price," Mertz told the paper, which he credited with prompting the lawsuit.

A Tribune investigation published last month found that Crestwood leaders knowingly used the well to provide drinking water for more than two decades after the state Environmental Protection Agency found the well to be contaminated with toxic chemicals. While the village notified the EPA the well would be shut down and told residents that it was using only treated water from Lake Michigan, officials continued to use the well until December 2007, village records show.

Mertz said that Maan De Kok's illness, usually found in industrial workers exposed to dangerous chemicals, had been a mystery to his family until his widow, Michele, read the Tribune's report in late April. Maan De Kok worked as a tax lawyer, Mertz said.

"He had a cancer that doctors believed was related to a chemical exposure in childhood, and it was never known why until my client read the story," Mertz said.

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