Attorney general suing Chicago gas company over Mahomet leak

Attorney general suing Chicago gas company over Mahomet leak

MAHOMET — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed suit against Peoples Gas over an underground natural-gas leak that has affected water wells north of Mahomet.

Madigan filed the complaint and motion for preliminary injunction in Champaign County Circuit Court in connection with a leak at the company's underground storage facility.

"Peoples Gas failed to meet its obligation to act in the best interest of residents by immediately evaluating the extent of the contamination and taking steps to stop its spread," Madigan said. "This order is intended to ensure that residents have access to safe drinking water while the company addresses the longer-term cleanup."

Madigan's filing was based on an Oct. 11 referral from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The suit alleges that Peoples Gas failed to keep its underground facility in leak-free condition.

The natural gas is stored about 4,000 feet below the surface. It is also below the level of the Mahomet Aquifer, which provides a source of drinking water for much of the area.

The suit alleges that a company employee noticed gas bubbles rising out of puddles at one of 153 injection wells on the property on Dec. 6, 2016.

On Jan. 13, Peoples Gas reported to the Department of Transportation that 39.3 million cubic feet of natural gas had leaked from that location.

"Peoples Gas further determined that the leaked natural gas ... had migrated into the Mahomet Aquifer," according to the suit.

Eventually, the company found five homes affected by the gas release. Spiros Law is representing four of those families and held a town hall informational meeting on the subject last week.

"We are pleased that the first of many steps is being taken to protect the residents of Champaign County," attorney James Spiros said Monday. "In time, we intend to fully uncover the extent of the harm being caused by Peoples Gas."

Assistant attorneys general Brian Clappier and Brian Navarrete, who are handling the case for Madigan's environmental bureau, argue that Peoples Gas has violated the Oil and Gas Act and the Environmental Protection Act.

Among other things, the lawsuit asks for civil penalties of $50,000 for each violation of the Environmental Protection Act and an additional $10,000 for each day in violation.