Bill would require disclosure
By Amy Boerema
Daily Herald, Chicago, IL
It was frightening enough to discover their water was
tainted with a toxic chemical.
But it was even more unfathomable to learn the government
knew about it and didn't tell them, said Lisle residents
Teresa and Al LeClerq.
"We found out, and it felt like we were in a horror
movie," Teresa LeClerq said.
Had they known their water was polluted with trichloroethylene
from the Lockformer Co. site on Ogden Avenue, they could
have taken precautions, they said.
Now state lawmakers, with the backing of Lt. Gov. Pat
Quinn, are proposing legislation that would require the
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to warn residents
of such dangers.
Quinn was joined Sunday at the Thompson Center in Chicago
by about 30 residents, including several Lisle-area families
who have been affected by polluted water or hazardous
materials, to push for the bill's approval.
"If the government knows about a toxic problem,
it needs to share that information with the families of
Illinois," Quinn said. "They have a right to
Sponsored by state Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat,
the Toxic Chemical Disclosure Act requires the IEPA to
notify nearby residents of environmental cleanups or investigations
through mail notices and newspaper and online postings.
Besides Lockformer, cases prompting the bill include
one in Downers Grove, where authorities said toxic chemicals
seeped into the aquifer from the Ellsworth Industrial
Naperville attorney Shawn Collins, who led the Lockformer
fight on behalf of local families, said the bill would
allow people to protect themselves, their children and
He won more than $32 million for residents and families
from three suits he filed against Lockformer in the past
"The awful truth in Illinois is that there's a conspiracy
of silence between polluters and some in government to
keep secret serious environmental problems," he said.
The bill, which could be passed this year, would kill
that conspiracy, he said.
In 2001, Jana Bendik of Downers Grove was diagnosed with
cancer, believed to have been caused from a tainted aquifer.
"It's extremely exciting to see this finally happening
because it's long overdue," Bendik said. "If
this can help one person to spare them what I've experienced
the past two years, it's well worth our while to do it."
Besides health concerns, Dan and Terry Mejdrech, who
live near Downers Grove, said they face decreased property
values and the stigma of living in a contaminated area.
And though it's been more than three years since the
LeClerqs discovered the pollution, they're still feeling
Long after their home was hooked up to Lake Michigan
water, the family - including the dog - still drinks only
Even when eating in restaurants far from home, they don't
drink the tap water.
Teresa LeClerq said corporations need to stop covering
up and be held liable for their actions.
"It still weighs heavily," she said. "We
try to forget it, but it's been a nightmare."