Attorney General Kwame Raoul today filed an amended agreed order in an ongoing lawsuit against The Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (Peoples Gas) over a natural gas leak that contaminated one of central Illinois’ largest fresh water sources, impacting nearby residents’ private wells.
Raoul filed the amended agreed order in Champaign County Circuit Court to update the agreed order’s requirements for measures Peoples Gas will undertake following a natural gas leak at the company’s underground natural gas storage facility near the village of Fisher, Ill. Natural gas is made up primarily of methane, is highly flammable and can, at elevated levels, cause asphyxiation in enclosed spaces.
“My office is committed to ensuring that residents have access to safe drinking water while the company addresses the longer-term cleanup,” Raoul said. “This amended order requires Peoples Gas to take additional steps to protect residents from the harmful effects of natural gas, which includes continuing to offer bottled water to impacted homes, and completing its testing of the wells used to transfer natural gas.”
The Peoples Gas facility contains an underground gas storage field of 27,500 contiguous acres that has a working gas capacity of approximately 36.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The gas is stored approximately 4,000 feet below surface in an area below the Mahomet Aquifer; the aquifer provides fresh water to approximately 850,000 Illinois residents.
According to Raoul’s lawsuit, a Peoples Gas employee observed gas bubbles formed in puddles above one of the underground access wells used to transfer natural gas into the underground gas storage field. Peoples Gas reported to state authorities that a large amount of natural gas had leaked from the well, and that it had reached the Mahomet Aquifer and the private wells of five nearby homes. Additional impacted homes were later identified. Affected homeowners reported visible impacts to their drinking water.
Consistent with the agreed order entered in October 2017, the amended agreed order continues to require Peoples Gas to install and maintain gas detectors in homes impacted by the natural gas released from the facility. The amended order also requires Peoples to continue to offer and maintain gas-water separators, which safeguard homes against the risks posed by natural gas by separating and filtering out gas in the well water when it enters nearby residents’ homes. If a home’s gas detector alerts residents to the presence of gas, Peoples Gas will also make and fund lodging accommodations.
The amended agreed order also directs Peoples Gas to complete a comprehensive inspection of all 153 of the facility’s wells, which involves structural and mechanical testing under the oversight of a licensed engineering firm. Under the amended agreed order, any concerns must be addressed immediately. Additionally, Peoples has submitted a report detailing factors that led to the gas release. The order further requires Peoples to provide the state with written procedures for operations, maintenance and emergencies, as well as the results of any water and gas testing, well structural integrity tests and facility leak survey materials.
Finally, the order requires Peoples to develop and implement a Groundwater Management Zone, which will be used to monitor and mitigate the natural gas released by Peoples into the Mahomet Aquifer.
The Attorney General’s office filed the lawsuit in October 2017, based on a referral from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. In 2018, the Attorney General’s office received an additional related referral from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The amended agreed order entered today will remain in place while litigation is ongoing.
Assistant Attorneys General Brian Navarrete and Natalie Long are handling the case for Raoul’s Environmental Bureau.