Foul Water Cover-Up Blamed for Boy’s Death

     CHICAGO (CN) – A Crestwood, Illinois woman claims in a lawsuit toxic chemicals in her drinking water caused the death of her son and her own Parkinson’s disease.
     In a complaint filed in the Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Linda Jensen, says she unknowingly consumed tap water “containing unwanted and unhealthy levels of dangerous toxins” for decades while living in the small Chicago suburb of Crestwood.
     She says she first grew concerned something was amiss after her son William was born in 1985 with Tetralogy of Fallot, a serious heart condition whose cause is still unknown, although a mother’s health and genetic predisposition are two suspected factors.
     Jensen says during her pregnancy, both she and the fetus underwent genetic testing and she also had an amniocentesus, all of which came back with normal results.
     William Jensen died due to complications from heart surgery in 1992. Linda Jensen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2013.
     Jensen says it wasn’t until 2015 that she learned that both medical issues “were more than likely caused by the contaminated water which she had ingested from Crestwood.”
     “The contamination, caused by chemicals which are known to cause cancer and other injuries to humans, was present in the publicly provided drinking water from at least 1975 through 2009,” the complaint says.
     Jensen claims the defendants — the Village of Crestwood, former mayors Chester Stranczek and his son Robert Stranczek, and the village’s civil engineering consultant Burke Engineering Corporation — all knew the municipal well serving her neighborhood was contaminated, but chose to cover up that information.
     Crestwood was “warned by government officials in 1985 that the well water contained dangerous toxic chemicals,” and assured “state regulators that it would only supply its tap water from Lake Michigan via purchase from Alsip, Illinois,” the complaint says.
     But officials “continued to use the cheaper well water instead of the more expensive Lake Michigan water … pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated water from the well into its water supply on a daily basis,” Jensen says.
     Despite several more IEPA tests, village officials, assisted by Burke, “repeatedly and continuously took active steps to conceal the use of the well … falsifying IEPA and other Illinois state reports,” providing improperly taken water samples, and physically disguising the well and well house to make them look unused, the complaint says.
     The well was finally shut down in 2009 after a mandated IEPA test showed that the volatile organic compounds Perchloroethylene, Dichlorethylene, and Vinyl Chloride were present in the water.
     According to the Chicago Tribune, which first reported on the contamination that year, the cover-up came to light thanks to another Crestwood woman who began requesting public records from the village in search of the cause of her son’s leukemia.
     She shared the EPA’s test results over the years with the Tribune and state investigators, and a city official eventually admitted to the scheme.
     The EPA states that Perchloroethylene is normally used in the dry cleaning industry, and can easily pass through soil into groundwater. Dichlorethylene and Vinyl Chloride are compounds that result from the breakdown of PCE.
     Together, they can affect the central nervous system, liver, kidneys and cause cancer. Vinyl Chloride is so dangerous that the maximum exposure level recommended by the EPA is zero, and it is suspected to cause birth defects.
     The Tribune reported that the volatile organic compounds most likely came from a dry cleaning business in a strip mall less than 300 feet from the well. It was later found that the business had improperly disposed of the chemicals in the 1980s, and tried to join an EPA soil cleanup program, but nothing was ever done about it.
     Several class action lawsuits were filed against Crestwood in 2010, and in 2013, village official Teresa Neubauer was convicted on several chargers for her involvement in the scheme. Frank Scaccia was also charged and plead guilty.
     Jensen seeks unspecified damages on claims of negligence, fraud and civil conspiracy, among other charges.
     She is represented by Eileen O’Connor of Chicago.

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