Can Our Drinking Water be Cancerous?

by Latifah Wright

We are surrounded by multiple external factors that can cause or contribute the development of cancer, from smoking to human genes. But what about our water? We usually trust our water to be safe. But if it something was added to it, and someone wasn’t aware of it drank the water, over time it could cause the same results as all the cancer causing factors.

 In an Illinois suburb, a woman by the name of Tricia Krause was unconvinced that her three children had develop critical health problems due to deja vu. She was sure that their health problems, that prolong for more than 20 years, was due to contamination in the water or the soil. 


Caption/Description: The image above is a map of Crestwood (highlighted in yellow) in the state of Illinois.

The family were from Crestwood, Illinois, a small area near the outskirts of Chicago with a population of 11,000. Within Crestwood, many residents, like Krause’s children, dealt with a variety of health problems, from whooping cough to leukemia to brain tumors. Krause was the only woman who sought to solve the mystery. Her investigation brought her to Springfield, Illinois, pouring over documents at the state’s environmental protection agency (EPA) office. She discovered that 30% of the residents’ water was being taken from a well.

 The investigation didn’t stop there. Tricia Krause held several town meetings and created her own epidemiological map. Epidemiological is the study (or the science of the study) of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. She investigated every possible contributing factor and eventually joined by Tim Janecyk, another innocent resident looking for answers.

 Together they found out that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), EPA, and the mayor (at the time) had known about the use of the well, since 1986. Through constant efforts to get in touch with the EPA to point out that the village was secretly using the contaminated well to obtain drinking water for the residents, they were defeated by the lack of callbacks from any of the EPA staff or Illinois Attorney General’s office.

 Tricia Krause and Tim Janecyk continue to bring attention to this issue by contacting the Governor of Illinois, the President of United States, and the media. They were finally helped by Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune in getting the case reported. The story was title and published as “Poison in the Well,” on April 19, 2009. Residents became outraged and fearful. The allegations made by the article were denied by the (former) Mayor Chester Stranczek, who claimed that the residents were being supply by Lake Michigan. That their “drinking water is 100 percent safe.”

 Little did the people know that the well that they were getting their drinking water from contained, vinyl chloride, PCE, and other dry-cleaning solvents. The vinyl chloride was added to the well for cleaning, which, according to the U.S. EPA, no levels of chloride is safe. PCE and other dry-cleaning solvents were found in the well, because of a nearby dry-cleaning company, Cal-Sag Channel, 300 ft from the Crestwood’s well.

 These chemicals caused a high rate of lung, kidney and gastrointestinal cancers; with liver cancer higher in men, kidney cancer high in both men and women and gastrointestinal cancer higher in men.

But why did the mayor and the officials continue to use the well, even after knowing it was of no use? The well enabled the village to gain the lowest water rates in the Southland area, paying $2 per 1,000 gal. The mayor and officials saved $380,000 a year on the water bill, compared to the $102,000 they were paying to pump 51 million gallons of water into the village.

In the end two of the water department officials, a former water department supervisor and former certified water operator, were arrested and brought to justice. The mayor, on the other hand, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was found incompetent to testify about the pollution charges. The mess they’ve made will probably linger for a great time, but at least residents there are able to take further steps towards recovery. Would something like this happen again? If so, what precautions would officials take to ensure safety to the public, instead of avoidance? In this case, the water only caused cancer with environmental tampering, and because people chose to ignore the problem.


One thought on “Can Our Drinking Water be Cancerous?

  1. I gotta say… you covered that story pretty well.

    It was pretty hard to go through all of the things that Tricia and I went through to make this story public…

    but I’ll tell you what…

    I wouldn’t change a thing.

    When you see a terrible wrong in the world you do whatever you can to make it right.

    You can make a difference and the world depends on you to do just that.

    Good job.

    You can change this world.

    Tim Janecyk.

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