Though the water flowing from a Chicago-area pump has been tested by chemists and found to be not too different from any water, it still attracts a dedicated legion of fans who believe the water is somewhat magical -- the region's very own fountain of youth of sorts.
A line of people armed with empty water jugs can be found almost around the clock at the hand-operated pump, located just off West Irving Park Road in the Schiller Woods forest preserve in northwest suburban Schiller Park. WBEZ's Curious City initiative recently investigated why.
According to fans of the Schiller Woods water, it is tastier than Chicago-area tap water -- which is treated with chemicals like chlorine and fluoride and mostly comes from Lake Michigan. According to Fox Chicago, some of its proponents say the water tastes like fresh spring water from Colorado or Poland Better yet, it's free.
The pump has been popular ever since it was installed in 1945. As the Cook County Forest Preserve District told the Chicago Tribune in a 1986 story, it was the only one of the the 500-plus hand-operated pumps that, in an effort to keep the line moving, had a posted limit on its use -- no more than 10 gallons. Another pump located just across the street, drawing water from the same underground aquifer, is never crowded.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has tested the pump's water and found it to be "a little low in iron and somewhat low in other trace minerals" but otherwise a district spokesman told the Tribune the water was found to have "no special properties at all."
Nevertheless, the urban legend lives on. Len Dufkis, the district's maintenance supervisor, told WBEZ some believe the water is holy water or has medicinal qualities. Some believe it can make its drinkers feel younger.
"You name it, people have said it," Dufkis told WBEZ.