Proposed Consent Order Results from Aqua Meeting Lead Requirements Over Several Compliance Sampling Periods
Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow today filed a motion to enter a consent order with Aqua Illinois (Aqua). Subject to court approval, the consent order would resolve a lawsuit filed by Raoul’s and Glasgow’s offices in 2019 alleging Aqua had failed to provide safe drinking water to certain residents in and around the village of University Park who relied on the public water system, which Aqua owns and operates.
Raoul and Glasgow filed the proposed consent order today in Will County Circuit Court. The proposed consent order is a result of Aqua having met the state lead action level over several six-month compliance sampling periods, as well as the company having developed an effective corrosion control treatment for the public water system.
“Throughout this lawsuit, my office has prioritized making sure University Park residents have access to water that meets state requirements. This settlement is possible because Aqua has consistently met those requirements over several compliance sampling periods. Under the settlement, impacted residents will be able to apply for free sampling and, if needed, inspection and remediation to their kitchen faucets,” Raoul said. “All Illinois residents have a right to access safe drinking water, and I am committed to enforcing the environmental laws and regulations that protect that right.”
University Park is located in an area that has been designated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as an area of environmental justice concern. The case was handled by the Attorney General’s office in cooperation with the Will County State’s Attorney’s office, based on a referral from the IEPA.
"This settlement ensures that the residents of University Park will have a safe public water system. The people in my office, along with Attorney General Raoul, have worked tirelessly to achieve a resolution that safeguards the health, safety, and welfare of those affected by the lead tainted water,” Glasgow said. “Throughout, the safety of the residents of our community has been our number one priority. This remains our priority today.”
“For more than four years, residents of University Park have endured significant concerns with their drinking water as numerous steps were taken to ensure they had access to water that complies with state drinking water standards,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim. “This Consent Order represents a new beginning for the University Park residents, as Aqua Illinois has now consistently demonstrated compliance with the regulatory lead action level. The company will provide resources through a Technical Assistance Program to address those eligible homes that may have lead-containing kitchen fixtures. This assistance program goes above and beyond the requirements of applicable State drinking water regulations. We appreciate the patience of University Park residents as we all worked to ensure the safety of their drinking water.”
The proposed consent order includes parameters for ongoing public water system compliance sampling, making customer-requested sampling available for an additional 180 days, as well as conducting nitrate variability testing. Aqua will also establish a technical assistance program funded through an escrow account containing up to $300,000. Residential customers in the customer resources area will receive a notice that includes an agreement to participate in the program. Those who sign up to participate prior to the deadline may be eligible to receive free services including sampling, inspection, corrective action and kitchen faucet remediation work. Aqua will also pay an additional $200,000 in civil penalties.
Raoul and Glasgow filed the lawsuit against Aqua in August 2019, alleging the company made changes to the public water system that removed the protective scale on plumbing and solder in homes, causing lead to contaminate the drinking water. The complaint further alleged that Aqua violated state construction and operating permit requirements, failed to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements for residents, and created a public nuisance.
In November 2019, Raoul and Glasgow filed an agreed interim order that required Aqua to provide free bottled water and faucet filter devices to impacted residents within the area of Aqua’s issued lead advisory. The order also required Aqua to conduct tap water sampling and offer blood lead level testing upon residents’ request. The proposed consent order includes a process for Aqua to cease providing bottled water and filter devices.
While the lawsuit was pending, Aqua created a dedicated website, WaterFactsIL.com, which, under the proposed consent order, the company will continue to maintain.
The case was handled by Division Chief Matthew Dunn, Bureau Chief Stephen Sylvester and Senior Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Pamenter, as well as Supervising Attorney Ellen O’Laughlin and Assistant Attorneys General Audrey Avila, Kevin Garstka, Ann Marie Hanohano and Molly Kordas for Raoul’s Environmental Enforcement Division. Civil Division Chief Mary Tatroe and Assistant State’s Attorney Adam Lipitz handled the case for the Will County State’s Attorney’s office.