Criminal complaint lands Sangamon commission in hot water
Chatham resident Jewel Brant recently uncovered potential fraud and related misconduct in the village of Chatham and the South Sangamon Water Commission (SSWC), with both entities’ activities tied to tainted water delivery in the surrounding area.
Brant, who served as a water operator and chemist for the state, first organized a public meeting to gather input prior to filing the grievance with the water commission and the Chatham village board.
Residents had observed mineral deposits, a chlorine taste, musty aroma and plumbing clogs. Additionally, many reported what appeared to be random increases in their water bills.
The complaint, filed late in 2016, exposed a possible bond scheme and raised questions about water quality in Chatham and New Berlin.
Despite meeting minimum environmental standards for potability, the water contained more manganese than is considered safe, according to Brant. She went on to comment that "the problem lies at village hall" and sent the complaint to the Office of Inspector General’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline at the EPA.
Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) praised Brant’s assertiveness, suggesting that her influential actions helped to expose the village government and the Water Commission — both in the area of bond fraud and the water problem.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed late in December that the complaint had been forwarded to the U.S. EPA Criminal Investigation Division, Region 5, in Chicago.