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Great Lakes Article:

Subdivision told it's unlikely to get water from lake
By Robert Channick
Special to the Chicago Tribune
Published December 14th, 2004

A standing-room-only crowd that packed the Wauconda Township offices Monday learned it is unlikely that a subdivision would get Lake Michigan water to solve problems with contaminated well water, a process that would take years and cost millions of dollars.

But residents of Hillcrest also were told that within 90 days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects to have a plan detailing how they could be hooked up to village well water.

Village officials assured residents that they could supply well water within the year.

Federal officials also said testing would expand to wells in neighboring subdivisions.

Residents have been looking for answers since September 2003, when the carcinogen vinyl chloride was found in well water at Hillcrest, which is near a Superfund landfill site.

An EPA study in January found widespread contamination, with 81 of 121 wells sampled containing vinyl chloride, which is believed to have leached from the nearby 74-acre Wauconda Sand and Gravel Landfill, which closed in 1978. Vinyl chloride is used to make plastic. It can cause cancer.

Last month, outgoing U.S. Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.), a Wauconda resident, proposed a bill seeking increased testing and monitoring, bottled water for residents within 1.5 miles of the site and development of a long-term solution by connecting the region to Lake Michigan water.

Many of the residents in the 150-home subdivision have formed a group called Clean Water NOW. They say they want federal money to hook up their homes to Lake Michigan water.

Karen Thoren-Day, 55, said Monday she would like to see the bottled-water program expanded to include homes with wells that were not shown to have contamination.

"It's been one year since we found out about this, and I haven't seen a bottle of water," she said.

The meeting was organized by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep.-elect Melissa Bean, Crane's successor in the 8th Congressional District.

Durbin didn't give residents much cause for optimism about getting water from Lake Michigan.

"What I've heard about Lake Michigan makes me believe it's a long, long shot, difficult politically and extremely expensive," he said.

Bean said the well-water issue will be a priority when she takes office in January.

"I think it's important for people right now who want to know that they're drinking safely while waiting for test results," she said.

More than a year ago, routine testing of the well water by the Lake County Health Department showed trace amounts of vinyl chloride. The EPA opened an investigation into possible sources of contamination, including the Superfund site.

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