Do you get your drinking water from the Fox River? Several towns including Elgin and Aurora draw water from the river. It contains contaminants including mercury, phosphorus, PCBs, fecal bacteria, and more. Find out what’s in your water with water quality testing from Angel Water, and then consult our water experts on what to do next!

Contaminants in the Fox River Make Water

Quality Testing a Must for Your Water

Do you live near the Fox River in northwestern Chicagoland? If so, you probably know the river’s negative reputation. Many residents regard it as dirty and grimy. It supports wildlife and recreational activities, but you may not want to drink it, and you’ll definitely want a shower after touching it. Yet, thousands of people still get their drinking water from the Fox. So, what does water quality testing tell us about the river and any contaminants it may contain? Is it safe?

Water Quality Testing Reveals Many Contaminants

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regularly conducts water quality testing in all the state’s lakes, rivers, and streams. It then publishes the results in a biennial Illinois Water Quality Report. The report includes detailed breakdowns of what contaminants are found, what segments of river or stream they’re found in, and potential sources. Here are just some of the contaminants that the Illinois EPA’s water quality testing has detected in the Fox River over the years:

  • Mercury—Toxic metal. Damages the nervous system causing shaking, tremors, pain, numbness, and other symptoms.
  • Phosphorus—Excessive levels of phosphorus have led to algal blooms in the region. The resulting cyanobacteria make the water smell and kill aquatic organisms.
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)—These manufactured chemicals have been widely dumped into the environment. Studies show that PCBs impair neurological development in children. They also harm the reproductive and immune systems, disrupt the endocrine system, and may cause cancer.

    Infographic depicts locations along the Fox River and the contaminants it holds.

    Click for full size infographic

  • Fecal Bacteria—Potentially cause illness and affect swimming conditions.
  • Sediment—Negatively impacts clarity and potability of water.
  • Pesticides (hexachlorobenzene and methoxychlor)—Short-term exposure to high levels of hexachlorobenzene harms the nervous system, inducing tremors, convulsions, and weakness. It also causes liver problems. Exposure to methoxychlor in animals causes similar effects but there hasn’t been much research into human exposure.

Does Your Town Drink from the Fox?

So, does your drinking water originate in the Fox River? What towns get their water from the Fox?

As of 2012, the Fox River supplied over 330,000 people in Elgin and Aurora with drinking water. The water has also caused problems in both towns in the past. For example, in 2016 both Elgin and Aurora had to temporarily switch to using well water after residents complained of a foul taste and odor in the water. Algae had grown on the river and caused those issues, which then weren’t properly resolved with water treatment.

Other towns along the river may also use the Fox to fulfill a portion of their drinking water needs. Towns often tweak or renegotiate their water sourcing, so you should look for the most current information for your town. Check out our Local Water Information page to find information about your town’s water supply. Alternatively, give your city hall a call and inquire about water sourcing.

Get Water Quality Testing for Your Drinking Water

Knowing the water in the region has these sorts of contaminants, it’s important to take precautions to protect the health of you and your family. One important such measure is water quality testing.

Angel Water has been conducting thorough water quality testing in Barrington, IL and the Chicago area for many years. Our lab will tell you what’s in your water, and our qualified water professionals will advise you on what to do about it. Just give us a call at (847) 382-7800 and schedule water testing today!

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