ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL ANNOUNCES SETTLEMENT WITH PEOPLES GAS OVER CHAMPAIGN COUNTY NATURAL GAS LEAK
Consent Order Requires Remediation of the Mahomet Aquifer and Protection for Impacted Homeowners
Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced a consent order with The Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (Peoples Gas) over a natural gas leak that reached one of Central Illinois’ largest fresh water sources and nearby residents’ private wells.
The consent order, entered in Champaign County Circuit Court, resolves a lawsuit the Attorney General’s office filed after natural gas leaked from a Peoples Gas underground storage facility near the village of Fisher, Illinois into the Mahomet Aquifer and the private wells of nearby homes. Natural gas consists primarily of methane, which is nontoxic but is flammable and, in high amounts, can cause asphyxiation in enclosed spaces.
“This consent order will ensure that Peoples Gas is held accountable for cleaning up the gas release and required to provide residents access to safe drinking water,” Raoul said. “My office will continue to work diligently to protect Illinois residents from contamination that threatens public health and the environment.”
The consent order requires Peoples Gas to mitigate the release by implementing a Groundwater Management Zone (GMZ) approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Implementation of the GMZ includes the operation of four new relief wells to remove methane from the aquifer. The wells are located in areas identified through site investigation as most likely to yield migrated gas. If any of the relief wells fail to yield methane, Peoples Gas will be required to locate and install a replacement well.
Peoples Gas must also conduct periodic sampling of a monitoring network to track the extent of the release and the progress of mitigation by the relief wells. Peoples Gas must continue to operate relief wells and sample until IEPA concurs that clean-up objectives have been met. Peoples Gas must then conduct at least three years of additional monitoring to ensure that methane remains within approved levels.
“This consent order will ensure the company complies with technical requirements such as the Groundwater Management Zone and takes additional steps to address natural gas affecting the local aquifer, monitor the groundwater, and further study the transport of the dissolved gas,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim. “Illinois EPA will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the remedy system and assess any needed updates to remediate and protect the groundwater that was contaminated by the natural gas leak from Manlove Field.”
The order also provides relief for impacted households. Peoples Gas must offer water treatment systems, bottled water, in-home gas monitoring devices and ongoing water monitoring to any household with levels of methane from the release exceeding an action level identified by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
“This consent order represents a significant win for the health and safety of central Illinois residents whose drinking water wells have been affected by natural gas and demonstrates our commitment to working with our sister agencies to protect the environment,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Acting Director Amaal Tokars. “We applaud the Attorney General’s Office for their aggressive handling of this successful environmental enforcement action.”
The Attorney General’s office filed the lawsuit in October 2017, based on a referral from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). In 2018, the Attorney General’s office received additional related referrals from IEPA and IDPH. The consent order follows two interim orders, entered in October 2017 and September 2019, that required Peoples Gas to investigate the release and provide relief to impacted households.
The order further requires that Peoples Gas pay a total of $575,000 in civil penalties and additional payments: $150,000 to IEPA; $25,000 to IDPH; $225,000 to IDNR; and $175,000 to the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Residents in the area seeking information can contact Barb Lieberoff at the Illinois EPA Office of Community Relations at 217-524-3038 or barb.lieberoff@Illinois.gov. Dan Brennan, IDNR Acting Director of Oil & Gas Resource Management, can be contacted for issues related to the Peoples Gas Manlove Field at 217-782-7756 or email@example.com. Aaron Martin at IDPH’s Division of Environmental Health can be contacted for health-related questions, at 217-785-5886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Armstrong and Natalie Long are handling the case for Raoul’s Environmental Bureau.