Crestwood residents to get $500,000 in tainted water case
By Michael Drakulich SouthtownStar
Crestwood residents walk a trail as the village's water tower looms in the background. The village used tainted well water to provide a portion of water to residents for 22 years. | STM File
Residents who sued the village of Crestwood over receiving tainted well water when they believed they were getting Lake Michigan water will get $500,000 as part of a settlement.
The settlement, which was finalized Thursday, pertains only to water bills paid by current and former residents and village business owners. Other claims, such as wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits, are still pending.
The settlement establishes a $500,000 fund that will pay out claims, amounting to a partial refund of water bills dating from Jan. 1, 1985, to Sept. 1, 2007. Those dates reflect the time the village was found to have tapped the contaminated well.
Larry Drury, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the class-action suit, said the deadline to file claims was September and that a claims adjustor will determine the amount of each payout based on length of residency and water purchases.
Attorneys said about 1,000 claims were filed in connection with the suit.
Caesar Tabet, the attorney representing the village, said the settlement was an attempt to stem the village’s mounting legal bills. The village admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. “This settlement represents an effort by the village and its officials to properly manage the resources of the village and its taxpayers and minimize future expense,” Tabet said. The settlement “reflects an effort to stop litigation expenses and conserve the resources of the village and its taxpayers.”
The settlement also includes other relief for residents in the form of a two-year freeze on fees for vehicle stickers, business licenses and garbage collection. Drury said there will be a three-year freeze on administrative expenses associated with the purchase of Lake Michigan water from Alsip as well as three years of independent testing of water.
The settlement is worth about $2.8 million, Drury said, which includes attorneys fees.
The village informed residents and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency it was only using Lake Michigan water after 1985, when it had discovered the well had been tainted by vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen.
But it was discovered by regulators that the village had been using the well to provide as much as 20 percent of water to the village from 1985 to 2007.
Crestwood officials have maintained that use of the well’s water never posed a health risk because it was diluted with Lake Michigan water.
However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined there is no safe level of exposure to vinyl chloride, which can damage the liver and nervous system.
Besides other suits filed against the village in relation to use of the well water, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also filed suit against the village.