Editorial | Aquifer bill is a winner

Editorial | Aquifer bill is a winner

It wasn't a particularly heavy lift — HB 4746 passed both the Illinois House and Senate unanimously — but the legislation signed this month by Gov. Bruce Rauner is important to residents of the Mahomet area whose homes are located near a natural gas storage field.

The operator of a natural gas storage field that lies within the footprint of a sole-source aquifer in Illinois — there's only one of those, Milwaukee-based Peoples Gas — now has to immediately notify emergency officials and water company officials whenever there is a natural gas incident that could be a danger to the public. It also has to notify private residents "as soon as practically possible."

Oddly that wasn't required until recently when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed HB 4746, which sailed through both chambers of the Legislature.

The legislation was the result of a 2016 gas leak at the vast underground storage field north of Mahomet that is operated by Peoples Gas. Area residents weren't informed of the leak that had contaminated private water supplies and in some cases was so severe that homeowners videotaped their water on fire.

The legislation also requires that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources annually inspect the Peoples Gas storage field, watching for infrastructure deficiencies or failures that could pose a hazard to public health. Peoples Gas also has to cover the cost of the yearly inspections.

The legislation also adds another important measure of protection to the Mahomet Aquifer, the drinking water source for Champaign-Urbana and other central Illinois communities.

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