Bills In Response To 2016 Natural Gas Leak Moving Through State Senate

Manlove natural gas storage field.

Manlove natural gas storage field, operated by Peoples Gas, north of Mahomet.

Own work/Wikipedia Commons /CC BY-SA 3.0

It was months before some local people and agencies found out about an underground natural gas leak that Peoples Gas discovered at its Manlove natural gas field in Champaign County in December, 2016.

State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) says the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee passed a bill he sponsored (SB3548) to require Peoples Gas to quickly notify local government agencies, public water systems and the public, whenever such leaks occur.

“And what happened a year and a half ago was absolutely unacceptable,” said Rose. “Peoples Gas was aware of the situation. They failed to timely communicate the local units of government, local water providers. In many cases, they failed to promptly and timely notify the homeowners who could be impacted on wells.”

Peoples Gas spokesman Brian Manthey says the company notified several agencies at the time of the 2016 leak, but says, in hindsight, they could have done more.

“Certainly in hindsight, looking back, we could have also done a better job in some of those notifications,” said Manthey. “But we did contact (a) very large number of those agencies, to let them know what had occurred, what we’re doing, and to provide some updates along the way.”

The gas leak at Manlove Field did not become widely known until late 2017, when a lawyer for some of the families whose wells had been directly affected by the gas leak held a public meeting on the issue.

A second bill (SB3549) from Rose passed by the same Senate committee last week would require annual government inspections of the gas field wells, to be paid for by Peoples Gas.

Rose says he has also introduced a resolution in the Illinois Senate

Currently Peoples Gas does its own inspections of Manlove Field on a slower schedule. Manthey says the company tests for above-ground leaks every week, and does a “thorough” inspection of the pipes for each of the field’s 153 gas wells on a two-year cycle.

The 27,500 acre Manlove Field is the only underground gas storage field owned by Peoples Gas, although its parent company, WEC Energy Group, has another gas storage facility in Michigan. Gas at Manlove is stored in sedimentary underground rocks, and held in place by a layer of impermeable rock above it, known as the capstone.

The 2016 gas leak sent methane gas into about ten private wells in northwest Champaign County. Peoples Gas says the methane levels were found to be not hazardous.  However, Sen. Rose and other local authorities were concerned, because the gas field is located over the Mahomet Aquifer, the main water source for much of central and east-central Illinois.

Rose says the Mahomet Aquifer Working Group is looking at other proposals to protect the aquifer from gas leaks at Manlove Field, which could be announced later. The Working Group is made of representatives from the Illinois EPA, local health departments, the Illinois Water and Geological Survey and city and county-level appointees.

Story source: WILL