Digging Deeper With WREX

Digging Deeper With WREX

Obtained From:
13 Eyewitness News Online Report | Kristin Crowley |May 23, 2017

 

Rockford Superfund Area

ROCKFORD (WREX) –
Rockford, 1981: Residents who live on a small piece of land along the southeast side of the city have no idea their drinking water is contaminated.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are found in hundreds of municipal and private wells across the area. It would end up taking nine years of surveys and studies before the federal government would step in and switch nearly 550 homes over to clean water from the City of Rockford.

But after years of ingesting toxic chemicals, the health of more than 1,000 people became the government’s primary concern. So in the early 1990s, residents who were exposed to one of the toxic chemicals, trichloroethylene (TCE), were added to a national registry to help track the potential health impacts of the contaminated water.

The study was scheduled to last 20 years, but it was never finished. It stopped less than two years short of its completion in 2010.

And the results from the first 18 years? They have never been released.

Today, the fight for that information continues.

“You know we lived here and drank the water. Can’t they tell us what effects it had on our health?” Dawn Fisher

On the surface, Marshall Street looks like any other Rockford neighborhood. But it is what’s under the surface that holds the real story. For 27 years, Dawn Fisher lived in what is now known as Rockford’s Southeast Superfund Site.

The contaminated area is a 7.5 square mile chunk of land – north of Sandy Hollow, south of Broadway, just west of Mulford Road and east of the Rock River.

Rockford Superfund Area

Rockford Superfund Image From WREX 13.

 

It was here where hundreds of wells were polluted with toxic chemicals after years of industrial dumping. That means for more than a decade Dawn, her husband and her children drank contaminated water.

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Rockford’s Superfund Site

Rockford’s Superfund Site

Rockford’s Super Fund Site

Between 1981 and 1988, water and soil samples were taken by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency when they Began receiving complaints about odor, taste and color to local private and municipal water wells. The results of those tests Caused the IEPA to label this 7.5 square mile area a Superfund Site.

What is a Superfund Site?

A Superfund Site is by definition: “any land in the US That has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a Risk to human health and/or the environment. These sites are placed on the National Priorities List for cleanup.” In an effort to make sure that residents had access to safe drinking water, the US EPA provided those homes with bottled water Until the 547 homes could be hooked up to municipal water services. The IEPA then began the process of studying and formulating a plan for cleanup of three sites in particular in 1991.

Compliance Reviews

The IEPA must review this superfund site every five years in order to be in compliance with cleanup protocols. As for now, they are simply monitoring those homes that are still in need of hooking them up to municipal systems. During 2014, EPA Contractors drilled 48 deep borings along side streets. Soil vapor samples were collected to find out if they pose a possible Risk to residents. The results will be accumulated and put into a technical paper to discuss these issues.

When will it be over?

In 2013 the EPA completed its review of the areas where cleanup had been completed but hazardous waste remains managed on site. These reviews are done to ensure the cleanup continues to protect the public and environment. However, it is important to again note, that not ALL of this area has been addressed. While there are few if any residents who are still using private wells, there are still hazardous waste materials in and around residences. The next review is scheduled for some time in 2018 and no plan has yet been released that cumulatively cleans up this residential area in Southeast Rockford. It has been 36 years since the problem was first reported and as of today, there is still no formal plan of action to clean up this site.

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TCE in the local news.

TCE in the local news.

Reports in the Rockford Register Star

In 1987, news articles began appearing in the Rockford Register Star Newspaper and other local publications about contamination of groundwater and private water wells in the Rock River Valley area. Most disturbing were the number of articles pertaining to children being diagnosed with Leukemia and other diseases. In addition, an article was published stating that we have one of the highest rates of bladder cancer in the United States right here in the state-line! Two pollutants mentioned in particular in these articles were Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Tetrachlorooethylene [aka Perchloroethylene] (PERC); both known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

Most disturbing were the number of articles pertaining to children being diagnosed with Leukemia and other diseases.

TCE & PERC

TCE is a solvent used as a degreaser in the manufacturing industry and PERC most commonly used in textile manufacturing and Dry cleaning. These chemicals can cause liver and kidney damage and have been proved to cause cancer, coma and even death In laboratory animal studies. It has not been proven however, what effects these chemicals have on humans as no studies have yet been conducted. Both chemicals were found in high concentrations in water tests conducted in Roscoe by the Winnebago County Health Dept.

Staggering Results

One resident at that time was asked to have his well tested in order to re-finance his mortgage. The results of the test were staggering.  Acceptable levels established by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are at 5 ppb (parts per billion – the equivalent of 1 drop per 15,000 gallons of water).  24 wells in the area were tested immediately because the levels on the first sample were questionable.  In total, levels of TCE ranged from 12 ppb to 75 ppb. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states that exposure to water contaminated with TCE “for an extended period of time may pose elevated health risks of adverse chronic health issues”.

Enough is Enough

For these reasons, Dr. Stillwater Company was founded to provide people in our local community the ability to have access to a known – clean drinking water as well as to educate the public about water quality in our area and why clean water is so important. Dr. Stillwater Company wanted to ensure that we would produce a premium quality product here at our facility in Machesney Park, IL that everyone would be able to afford. We believe that our process of steam distillation in conjunction with Carbon filtration is the best possible way to remove any contaminants or inorganic compounds that may be harmful to human health. Creating a known water is important. The consistent quality of water using this process assures our customers that they are providing their families with the purest drinking water available on the market today. We are locally owned and operated so you can count on us for friendly service. No contracts, no minimums to purchase and you can cancel at any time without penalty.

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