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EPA orders Cahokia Heights to take ‘immediate actions’ to prevent drinking water contamination

EPA orders Cahokia Heights to take ‘immediate actions’ to prevent drinking water contamination

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Centreville residents continue fighting flooding, sewer issuies

"I'm catchin' hell today." Centreville resident McArthur Smith, 74, steps over the body of water that surrounds his 83rd Street home on Thursday, March 18, 2021, to reach a ramp. After little more than one inch of steady rain had fallen in a previous 24-hour period, Smith had to bucket a couple of inches of water from his basement; despite having a working pump. He and his wife keep their vital belongings in the room elevated because of frequent flooding. Trapped water is ever-present as the city's long-neglected drainage system no longer carries it away. The situation creates a formidable mosquito problem for the couple and residents. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

CAHOKIA HEIGHTS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday ordered the Metro East city of Cahokia Heights to take “immediate actions” to prevent drinking water contamination, including increased testing and monitoring of drinking water.

The EPA said an inspection found serious problems, including sanitary sewer overflows and the lack of water quality monitoring.

A potential loss of system pressure in the water system could result in an increased risk of dangerous contaminants, including E. coli and other disease-causing organisms, the EPA warned.

Issues with Cahokia Heights sewage and drainage systems have long plagued the Cahokia Heights area over the last two decades, and residents shared stories with the Post-Dispatch of worsening damage to their homes over the past 20 to 30 years.

Newly formed Cahokia Heights, made up of the municipalities of Cahokia, Centreville and Alorton, was denied a $22 million federal grant earlier this year. Curtis McCall Sr., who was sworn in as the city’s first mayor in May, has pledged to fix the water system issues.

In July, two dozen residents filed a federal lawsuit against Cahokia Heights, claiming violations of the Clean Water Act due to wastewater continuing to flow into area creeks and rivers.

Previously, McCall said the city would spend $3 million in federal coronavirus relief aid on critical sewer and drainage work.

On Tuesday, McCall renewed his call for county, state and federal government assistance, noting it would cost about $19 million to address the municipality’s sewer and drainage issues.

In its order, the EPA directed Cahokia Heights and its water utility partners to address operation and maintenance issues, add staff and make repairs to storage tanks and distribution systems.

McCall previously said Cahokia Heights will also expand its sewer repair crew from three people, up to 16.

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