CHICAGO, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Two former officials in the Crestwood, Ill., water department were indicted for lying to regulators for more than 20 years about using tainted well water.
“The indictment alleges that for 20 years, Crestwood officials purposely hid the fact that they commingled well water with Lake Michigan water and, by doing so, avoided complying with state and federal environmental regulations,” U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald Thursday said in a release.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had discovered in 1985 that the village’s well water was contaminated by vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen that can cause liver and nerve damage, but the officials continued to use well water until 2007.
Village officials insisted the tainted well water was so diluted with Lake Michigan water purchased from neighboring Alsip, Ill., that it never posed a health risk to the 11,000 residents or the environment. The U.S. EPA has not determined a safe level of vinyl chloride.
Indicted were Frank Scaccia, 59, a retired certified water operator, and Theresa Neubauer, 53, the former water department clerk and supervisor. Neubauer is now the village’s police chief.
The grand jury charged them with 23- and 22 felony counts of making false statements, which carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Crestwood settled a lawsuit in December and set up a $500,000 fund to give residents partial refunds on their water bills, the Chicago Sun-Times said. Other lawsuits are still in the courts.