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Illinois Sues Crestwood Over Tainted Water Supply

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CHICAGO (AP) -- The state of Illinois filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a Chicago suburb for allegedly drawing drinking water from a contaminated well for decades, then lying about it to residents and environmental authorities.

The 58-page complaint, filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, accuses the village of Crestwood of knowingly providing false information about the water supply to more than 11,000 residents and to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

"Crestwood officials violated the public's trust and the laws designed to protect public health," Madigan said in a statement.

Along with the village, the lawsuit names Mayor Robert Stranczek, his father, former Mayor Chester Stanczek, and Frank Scaccia, the former certified operator of Crestwood Water Supply.

The mayor's office issued a brief statement Tuesday afternoon, saying the village has been cooperating with investigating authorities and officials are "extremely disappointed" by the lawsuit.

Messages left at Robert Stranczek's office and Scaccia's home seeking comment were not returned Tuesday. There was no listing for Chester Stanczek in Crestwood.

State officials discovered the well contained chemicals linked to cancer in the mid-1980s, but Crestwood allegedly continued to draw water from it until 2007, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County circuit court.

"Throughout this period, Crestwood officials allegedly covered up the use of the contaminated well by falsely assuring residents and the IEPA that the Village was not using the well," a statement from Madigan's office said.

Village officials told the state they were getting water from Lake Michigan but at times drew as much as 20 percent from the well, according to the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the allegations two months ago.

Those reports angered and frightened many Crestwood residents, some of whom have filed lawsuits of their own against the village. One widow alleged in her lawsuit that contaminated drinking water contributed to her husband's death.

The attorney general's office has not determined why Crestwood officials continued using the well, said Madigan's spokeswoman, Robyn Ziegler. But the village boasted for years that it had the cheapest water rates in Cook County and may have saved money by drawing from the suspect well, the Tribune has reported.

Officials haven't established a link between illnesses in Crestwood and the water, and Robert Stranczek said previously the village's water is safe.

The lawsuit seeks tens of thousands of dollars in penalties, and Madigan said she hopes it will be a deterrent.

"Through this lawsuit, we are seeking to hold these officials accountable for their conduct and to make sure that this does not happen again in Illinois," Madigan said.

Federal agents raided Crestwood's government offices in April to look for evidence of crimes related to allegations. No one has been charged.

-ASSOCIATED PRESS

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