campaign to stop waste water
By Rukmini Callimachi
The Daily Herald, Chicago
Just off Anderson Road, an open pipe hidden under a cover
of Queen Anne's lace feeds 1.4 gallons of waste water
per day into the village's Fiddle Creek.
The waste water comes from neighboring Wauconda's waste
water treatment plant, which since 1990 has been dumping
water into a leg of Fiddle Creek. The creek courses through
Lake Barrington before joining the Fox River.
Residents of three Lake Barrington subdivisions that
border the creek are appealing to the state Environmental
Protection Agency and their own village officials to take
action. The creek poses a hazard to their health, they
say, and occasionally brings an unpleasant odor.
"The stink first hit me last August - it was like
an open sewer," said Tom Scanlan, 68, president of
the Saddlewood Homeowners Association on Anderson Road,
one of three subdivisions that border the creek. The odor
prompted him to fill a bottle with water from the stream
and take it to local health authorities last year.
The Lake County Health Department found that the water
contained 3,750 molecules per 100 milliliters of fecal
coliform - more than seven times the state standard for
beaches and swimming holes. Beaches on Lake Michigan are
closed after levels exceed 500 molecules per 100 milliliters,
said the department's Mark Pfister.
Because the area surrounding the creek was undeveloped
in 1990, the IEPA exempted the plant from its standard
disinfection procedure, allowing the village to treat
only for organic compounds - and not for fecal matter.
That exemption is up for review on Sept. 9, when Wauconda
will apply to the IEPA for a variation to its permit.
Wauconda is asking for a plant expansion that would increase
the plant's daily outflow to 2.4 million gallons per day.
It is also asking to keep the disinfection waiver.
But Lake Barrington residents oppose increasing the plant's
daily outflow. In fact, they want the outflow stopped
"This is like Love Canal No. 2. There's no such
thing as clean waste water," said Lakeland Estates
resident Al Phillips, a member of the recently formed
Save Fiddle Creek Wetlands group. "We don't want
disinfection - we want total disconnection. The pipe needs
to be plugged," he said.
IEPA officials say that the disinfection exemption will
only be granted if Wauconda can prove that there is little
chance of human contact with the waste water - an unlikely
scenario given that the Saddlewood, Lakeland Estates and
Twin Pond Farm subdivisions have all been built on the
periphery of Fiddle Creek.
"The No. 1 concern is human contact. Is it running
through a subdivision's back yard or near a school?"
said Alan Keller of the Illinois Environmental Protection
In concept, the Lake Barrington village board backs its
residents. On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved
a resolution opposing Wauconda's permit request, arguing
that the waste is a threat not just to the residents of
the three Fiddle Creek subdivisions, but to the aquifer
of Lake Barrington as a whole. It added the words "in
concept" to the resolution, however, pending the
results of an independent engineering study, commissioned
by the village.
The Lake County Forest Preserve is also paying for an
"We are concerned about the potential impact to
the forest preserve and to its users," said Forest
Preserve President Bonnie Thomson Carter. "I can
understand the sentiment of people who don't want to have
waste water going through their back yards," she
Wauconda Village Attorney Rudy Magna said the village
originally thought it would receive a permit this summer
without objection but now faces at least a four-month
delay to begin plant expansion. However, if the IEPA decides
the treatment plant needs to be reworked based on public
concern, it could be held up longer, he added.
"I'm very confident the village is going to do what
it needs to meet IEPA standards," Magna said. "If
everybody has some patience, it will work out in a win-win