On Nov. 14, Lisa Martinez, on behalf of James Park Neighbors, submitted to City Council a petition signed by more than 150 residents. She said residents were “concerned about the contaminants found in the water of several of their homes, at Dawes School, and Dobson Plaza. “We are concerned that our water is not safe to drink,” she said.

Ms. Martinez added that residents were concerned that, fewer than 60 feet from Dawes School, methane gas is becoming concentrated and pressurized at levels that exceed the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limits

The petition asked the City to determine the extent of internal and external contamination of water mains and to replace all contaminated water mains.

Resident Leo Sherman told Council members that neighbors disagreed with the City’s assessment that the water is safe to drink. “Carcinogens do not belong in our drinking water,” he said, adding, “Even if the City’s water is not unsafe to drink today, that does not mean it will not be unsafe tomorrow.”

At a meeting with residents from the James Park neighborhood on Sept. 1, City officials told residents to call the City’s 311 Call Center if they wanted their water tested. As of Oct. 20, 46 property owners had asked to have their water tested. As of Nov. 8, an additional 27 property owners had requested testing.

On Nov. 14, City Council unanimously authorized the City Manager to retain SCS Engineers of Madison, Wis., to collect and analyze water samples in various places in the City at a cost not to exceed $250,000.

In the  first phase, SCS will collect samples from a total of 67 sites, including the 15 sites previously tested, 46 sites where residents requested their water to be tested,  and other sites, so as to obtain at least one sample from each ward. SCS will analyze the samples for coal tar products, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds and will prepare a summary report for a not-to-exceed cost of $122,000.

The remaining funds will be used to collect additional samples in the future, depending on the results of these samples.

SCS is the consultant that collected and tested water samples in the James Park area on three previous occasions. In previous tests, SCS found fluoranthene and phenanthrene in the water at four locations.