Rose to Mahomet Aquifer Task Force meeting: Still a lot of work to do

Rose to Mahomet Aquifer Task Force meeting: Still a lot of work to do

MONTICELLO — One day after the Illinois House approved a measure aimed at protecting central Illinois' main groundwater source, state Sen. Chapin Rose told a Mahomet Aquifer Task Force subcommittee Friday there is still a lot of work to do.

Legislation now on Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk would require companies operating underground natural-gas storage facilities above sole-source aquifers — like the Mahomet Aquifer — to notify the public if a gas leak is detected. It was in response to a Peoples Gas leak near Mahomet that affected the drinking water of five rural homes but was not divulged by the utility for more than a year.

While he called the new law a victory in preventing future incidents, Rose, R-Mahomet, told task force members in Monticello that the effects of the Peoples Gas leak are still not fully known.

"The EPA has been working very hard to do a 3D model of the below-ground surface structure of where this Peoples Gas incident occurred and where that natural gas may be now," Rose said. "This is something that Peoples Gas should have done Day 1. The minute they knew there was a problem, they should have hired an outside contractor to do this modeling and figuring how to interdict it. They haven't done that, but thankfully, the state EPA has stepped up."

Results of the EPA study should be available when the full task force next meets at 10 a.m. June 18 in Mahomet, which committee member Jim Risley hopes there's a big turnout for. The site is yet to be determined.

"People need to know we are meeting and still concerned about this. It's been months, more than a year and I'm afraid people are sitting out there thinking nobody cares anymore," said Risley, a retired Mahomet-Seymour teacher and coach who lives near a gas pipeline.

"There is the issue of a lot of unknowns, and I think that's what people need to know is that even though there are questions, there may not be a concrete answer to some of them yet. Hopefully, that's coming in the future."

Last October, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against Peoples Gas. Rose hopes any settlement would include the state recouping the cost for research being done on the impact of the leak, estimated at 39.3 million cubic feet from one location. Natural gas was found to have leeched into the aquifer.

The task force was formed last year and has been meeting monthly since February. It was tasked with delivering groundwater protection recommendations to the state by July 1, but that deadline has been extended through the end of the year.

"I would rather walk a little slow now, so when the time comes we can sprint with quality ideas," Risley said.

Some preliminary recommendations from experts serving on the committee are also expected to be discussed at the June 18 session.

The Mahomet Aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for much of central Illinois and runs from Mason County in the west to the Indiana border to the east.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.

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