In an official press release published yesterday (August 3, 2021), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had ordered Cahokia Heights, Illinois, to “take immediate actions” to prevent drinking water contamination and protect public health.
While the release stated that there was no evidence of present contamination, a recent inspection by the EPA uncovered a number of “serious problems” that could affect the safety of the local water, especially in the instance of sewer overflows.
The water systems in Cahokia Heights currently serve around 21,000 people. The EPA’s orders for action are necessary for keeping these people safe.
The order requires a number of steps to be carried out by Cahokia Heights, the Illinois American Water Co., Commonfields of Cahokia Public Water District and the Village of Cahokia Public Water System.
These steps include continuously testing for bacteria, chlorine and water pressure to ensure that sewage doesn’t enter drinking water. Operation and maintenance issues will also need to be addressed, including staffing issues and damage to distribution systems and storage tanks.
In the press release, acting EPA Region 5 Administrator Cheryl Newton said the following:
“This order is an important step toward ensuring safe drinking water for the Cahokia Heights community. EPA is pleased to have the support of the state of Illinois and is working with them and with other federal agencies in a whole-of-government approach to fix these problems once and for all.”
U.S Senator Tammy Duckworth was also quoted in the release. She said that the health of the city’s locals was “endangered by the state of their crumbling water systems”, and that it was “a shame that these residents are in this situation at all”.
“I am hopeful this action will help the city get back on the right track toward compliance and improving residents’ lives. I remain deeply concerned with the safety of the people of this city and the management of Cahokia Height’s water systems. I will continue to work with the residents, local and state officials as well as EPA to make sure this system is repaired and the community health is protected.”