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City council members say homeowners of an unincorporated neighborhood near Naperville, Ill., with contaminated wells near Nike Park will have to annex into the city before tapping a Naperville main to receive Lake Michigan water.
Some residential wells in the Knight's subdivision have shown trace amounts of the toxic chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, but the levels are within acceptable federal standards for safe drinking water, officials say.
Testimony this week that TCE levels likely will rise wasn't enough to convince council members to reverse a policy requiring annexation to access city services. The council voted 5-3 on Tuesday to reject the homeowners' request to extend city water to their unincorporated area.
The Army Corps of Engineers would have paid for the cost of the main, estimated at $773,000. But council members said they couldn't deviate from city policy without a more definite health threat.
"We really ought to stick with the policy we have," Councilman Gary von Behren said. "If it (the TCE) is below the legal limit, it is not a health hazard."
The city did make an exception in 2001 for homeowners in an unincorporated area along Bauer Road, where TCE in wells has spiked to unsafe levels. Those residents expect to tap into a city water main this year.
Resident Jack Flowers lobbied for the same consideration for the 32 houses in Knight's, just north of Bauer Road at Eagle Street.
"This is really a public safety, public health issue, separate from annexation," Flowers said. "These people have lived there all their lives and don't wish to change. It's nothing against Naperville; they're just used to it."
Officials say TCE leaked into the groundwater from Nike Park, which served as a nuclear missile site during the Cold War. The chemical seeped into deeper aquifers through the spaces alongside residential wells.
Federal officials classify TCE as a probable carcinogen that can lead to an impaired immune system and kidney or liver cancer.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has found three plumes of TCE migrating southwest and northeast of Nike Park. Tests over the past three years show the chemical concentrations rising above safe levels in underground aquifers, said Melody Thompson, a Corps project manager.
The Corps wants to seal all the residential wells near Nike Park to eliminate a possible public health hazard and stop TCE from leaking into aquifers, she said. As part of the plan, the Corps would pay to build new water mains.
But if residents cannot tap into Naperville's water, the Corps will have to reevaluate the project, Thompson said.
Knight's subdivision residents plan to meet next week to review their options. Homeowners want to find out how many favor annexation and get more details on how it would affect their property taxes, Flowers said.
Residents also plan to make another pitch to the city council, he said.
"They (the residents) had nothing to do with this contamination," Flowers said. "Now we're being penalized because we happen to be next to a nuclear missile site and that's totally unfair."
The residents had some support on the eight-member city council in Richard Furstenau, John Rosanova and Darlene Senger, who each wanted to allow them to connect to city water without incorporating.