News Feature | January 4, 2017

'Do-Not-Drink' Order Hit Chicago Neighborhood

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

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Water from carwashes in Chicago appears to have contaminated the water system, forcing some city residents to stop drinking tap water last week.

The do-not-drink order has since been cancelled: “City officials said Friday that the issue has been resolved by flushing the water mains and the ‘do not drink’ order was lifted,” according to ABC 7.

NBC 5 reported last week: “The city began handing out bottled water to homes in the 4600 and 4700 blocks of West Patterson Avenue in the city's Old Irving Park neighborhood and took water samples for analysis.”

It appears that rusty, discolored water began flowing in ratepayers’ homes “after a nearby car wash’s lack of backflow devices possibly lead to a contaminated waterline,” the report said.

Two car washes were shut down as a result of an investigation by the water department, ABC 7 reported. “They have been closed and will remain closed until the problems have been corrected,” the report said.

The NBC 5 report said the discolored water problem began months ago:

A day after NBC 5 reached out to the Department of Water Management, the city sent crews to the neighborhood and says it resolved the issue — but found the car wash problem. Flyers distributed to residents warned them not to wash dishes, brush their teeth or even consume the water coming from their taps.

The U.S. EPA’s water office warns of the potential for contamination due to backflow and related health risks. For instance, “in 1993 in Seattle, WA, a temporary cross-connection at a car wash facility allowed soapy water in the distribution system, affecting an eight-block area and causing two unconfirmed cases of illness.”

Image credit: "water droplets," ethan sztuhar © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: