Local News

Lake in the Hills, Cary considers class action lawsuit over water contamination

An unregulated group of chemicals was found in some wells in the villages last year

The villages of Lake in the Hills and Cary are considering filing a class action lawsuit after chemical pollutants were found at some water production sites last year.

The villages said in a joint news release Tuesday that they would be seeking common legal representation to evaluate how much of the chemicals are present and how costs from modifying their wells can be recovered.

Chemicals known as PFAS, which are man-made chemicals used in nonstick and water- and stain-resistant products, were found in the water last spring during routine testing by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Lake in the Hills Village Administrator Fred Mullard said the village decided to close one of the village’s wells near the intersection of Council Trail and Jesse Road as a precaution.

“Since it was identified and there’s not actually a contaminate level determined by the EPA, it was best for us to take those wells out of service out of caution,” Mullard said.

Seventy-nine other places around Illinois also had PFAS chemicals in the water, Mullard said.

In Cary, two wells were closed, which Public Works Director Erik Morimoto said share a common treatment facility.

“Because of the resiliency of our system, we were able to make up for the lost production,” Morimoto said. “The water is still meeting and exceeding all the drink water requirements.”

Mullard said they do not think the pollution is coming from a single source.

“Probably the suspect is more of a general chemical,” he said. “We have no reason to believe there’s a specific source. It’s basically kind of general presence in the water system.”

Mullard explained chemicals can get into the water at their source and PFAS chemicals were likely present near this water’s source. He said shallow wells like the one Lake in the Hills shut down tend to have more contaminates in them.

The goal of getting legal representation is to explore how the chemicals can be dealt with. Mullard said there are effective ways to remove PFAS chemicals from the water, but it will likely require them to make modifications to their system.

“That in turn will have increased operating expenses, and we’re trying to find a way to recoup those costs so we can keep water prices at reasonable level for our residents,” Mullard said.

Even with one well off, residents are not seeing any negative impacts, Mullard said. The well system is designed to operate a maximum demand when the largest well is out of service. Maximum demand only happens a few days a year in the summer, and there were no issues this past summer.

Water in both Lake in the Hills and Cary continues to be safe to drink, the villages said.

It could be some time before the wells come back into service, Morimoto said. Municipalities around the country are waiting on the federal or state EPA to come up with standards for PFAS in water, which is a process that takes several years.

It is possible the villages don’t need to recover any costs if the EPA’s standards determine the water still is safe, Morimoto said.

Morimoto and Mullard said residents in both villages should not expect any service disruptions or problems with their water while they figure out the next steps to take with the contaminated wells.