- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MAHOMET, Ill. (AP) - Illinois’ attorney general is suing a Chicago gas company over an underground natural-gas leak that has affected water wells in the central part of the state.

The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan against Peoples Gas is based on a referral from the state Department of Natural Resources, The News-Gazette reported. Madigan also requested a preliminary injunction in connection with a leak at the company’s underground storage facility.

The affected wells are north of Mahomet, a village northwest of Champaign.

“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.”

Peoples Gas spokesman Brian Manthey told The Associated Press that the company has agreed to Madigan’s order. He said the company has installed four gas-water separators and is providing bottled water to homeowners requesting it.

“We reacted quickly with significant resources to secure the well and contain the leak as soon as it was discovered in December,” Manthey said in an email.

According to the lawsuit, which is based on an Oct. 11 referral from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the gas company failed to keep its underground facility in a leak-free condition.

The lawsuit alleges an employee of the company noticed gas bubbles rising at an injection well on the property in December 2016. Peoples Gas reported to the Department of Transportation that a natural gas leak had occurred from that location in January.

“Peoples Gas further determined that the leaked natural gas … had migrated into the Mahomet Aquifer,” the lawsuit states.

The company later found five homes had been affected by the leak.

“We are pleased that the first of many steps is being taken to protect the residents of Champaign County,” attorney James Spiros, who’s representing four of the affected families. “In time, we intend to fully uncover the extent of the harm being caused by Peoples Gas.”

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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