Oak Creek residents concerned about unsafe drinking water
WTMJ News Team
Tom Murray reportsPhoto: Video by tmj4.com
OAK CREEK- Water so contaminated it's not safe to drink -- it's a serious fear for families who live near the Oak Creek power plant.
Many who live near the We Energies power plant cannot drink the water that comes out of their faucet.
They're afraid to even take a shower.
And now We Energies is buying up homes near the plant -- an act some believe is strange and suspicious.
Jim Janikowski has lived near the Oak Creek power plant for 15 years. He is also a realtor.
While Janikowski's used to seeing the smoke stacks down the road, he's not used to seeing so many for sale signs.
Jim Janikowski: "I believe there were seven 'for sale' signs on the first seven house when you turn the corner."
TODAY'S TMJ4's Tom Murray: "And there aren't that many homes on this street."
Jim Janikowski "No, there isn't."
Turns out We Energies is buying homes in this neighborhood -- a neighborhood where many homes have water so contaminated the Department of Natural Resources says it's not safe to drink.
Rochelle and Don Arndt sold the home where they raised their children.
"For us, it worked out to our benefit to sell the house," said Rochelle Arndt. "They gave us well over market value."
Not only did We Energies pay more than the assessed value for this home, the Arndt's said the power company paid an extra $10,000 in moving expenses. They even had the Arndt's sign a confidentiality agreement.
"I'm thinking that they're buying it up so that they don't have to worry about any lawsuits coming up later," said Don Arndt
The DNR is currently investigating We Energies as a possible source of the water contamination, but the DNR's results are not in and We Energies spokesperson Brian Manthey says this isn't a cover up. He says the utility company is just trying to be a good neighbor.
"It really is the case with a lot of our power plants or other facilities. What we'll do is have some kind of a buffer for the area," said Manthey about the utility buying the property.
Putting space between the plant and neighboring homes.
Some of the same homes where wells are contaminated with molybdenum.
Molybdenum can cause hallucinations, joint pain and even problems with the kidneys and liver.
Molybdenum is often traced back to coal ash. There are coal ash landfills on the Oak Creek plant site.
"We have purchased homes that have molybdenum below and above. We have not made water as the reason," said Manthey.
But as the I-TEAM first exposed in May, We Energies is paying for bottled water deliveries to some homes near the Oak Creek plant.
Jim Janikowski gets bottled water. And so do the Arndts, as they wait to move out of their house.
But We Energies again says it's not taking the blame, just trying to be good neighbors as apart of an agreement made when the power plant was built.
The DNR says it's reviewing data from intensive testing to determine whose to blame for that molybdenum that's poisoning the water.
They hope to reveal their results in September.