News Local/State

Peoples Gas Holds Meetings About Gas Leaks For Skeptical Public

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

Representatives from Peoples Gas are attempting to reassure skeptical residents in rural Mahomet that the natural gas leak from December 2016 is under control and it is working with homeowners who have contaminated wells.

The gas leak happened at Manlove Field, a natural gas storage field north of Mahomet along Illinois Route 47.

Several officials from Peoples Gas and parent company WEC Energy Group met with the public for two public sessions at Mahomet’s Lake of the Woods Park on Tuesday, to address concerns and report what the company is doing to help homeowners who have methane gas in their water wells. 

Company officials laid out the timeline of the gas leak and what they’re is doing to help affected property owners. 

Peoples Gas is providing bottled water, water-gas separators, gas detectors and further water tests at the five properties where they say methane gas leaks were confirmed in well water supplies.

What caught some in the audience by surprise is that there are no federal laws that govern the levels of methane gas in drinking water.

That did not impress local resident John Jennings.

"I think it would behoove Peoples Gas to get on the stick and talk to the Illinois EPA and the federal EPA and determine some federal standards for drinking water,” said Jennings, who lives near Manlove Field.

But epidemiologist Mark Roberts said the lack of standards is no surprise. Roberts was brought to the meeting by Peoples Gas and has studied the impact of public health risks on ground contamination. He says the reason the federal government doesn't have methane regulations for drinking water is because the methane dissipates when it hits the air.

“When they prioritize the things that are in the water, methane doesn't come close to being a regulatory entity,” said Roberts.

Roberts says standards for drinking water are left up to local governments.

The biggest amount of criticism from the audience at the afternoon meeting was directed at Peoples Gas for a lack of communication with residents. Many found out about the December 2016 leak nearly a year later, after lawyers for some of the affected property owners alerted the news media about their own public meeting about the gas leak.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has given Peoples Gas a Notice of Violation and the Illinois Attorney General is suing the company over the leak and its handling of the situation.