Illinois Residents Sue Peoples Gas, Subsidiary of WEC, for Contaminating East Central Illinois’ Major Source of Water, According to FeganScott Law Firm
Suit alleges drinking water is hazardous due to
leaks from Peoples Gas’ storage beneath aquifer
Today, a group of residents filed a class action lawsuit against
natural gas provider Peoples Gas for neglecting to maintain wells
that injected natural gas into underground storage in central
Illinois and causing natural gas to leak into the local aquifer.
The aquifer is one of Illinois’ most important groundwater
resources, serving as the primary source of drinking water for more
than 500,000 people in 15 Illinois counties and providing hundreds
of millions of gallons of water per day to communities as well as
agriculture, industry, and rural wells.
According to the plaintiffs, Peoples Gas’ neglect caused large
amounts of natural gas and other combustible gases and hazardous
chemicals to surge into the Mahomet aquifer – the sole source of
water for east-central Illinois – from an underground natural gas
storage facility it operates in Champaign County, Illinois,
rendering the water hazardous, and in some cases flammable.
While corrosion of the wells had been occurring undetected for
decades, a notable contamination event occurred in 2015, when the
well corrosion reached the point of “blow-out,” resulting in a
large amount of natural gas pushing into the aquifer, contaminating
drinking water. According to the suit, it was a year later in 2016
by the time Peoples Gas noticed the gas bubbles percolating in the
water, yet took no immediate, meaningful action.
According to the suit, Peoples Gas, a subsidiary of WEC Energy
Group (NYSE: WEC), failed to perform EPA-required routine testing
that would have detected the problems and prevented the gas leak.
According to the complaint, the last test before the blow-out was
conducted more than 27 years ago, when the tests revealed severe
deterioration of the steel piping system.
“With the metal actively degrading in the well, Peoples Gas had
every reason to expect danger was looming,” said Beth Fegan,
founding partner of FeganScott. “You can’t neglect evidence of a
gas leak for 27 years and claim you’re not responsible.”
Yet that is exactly what Peoples Gas has done in individual
lawsuits filed in Champaign County, prompting a state court to deny
Peoples Gas’ attempts to dismiss those lawsuits. Declining to adopt
Peoples Gas’ arguments, the state court summarized Peoples Gas’
position: “If [Peoples Gas] pumped methane, non-potable saltwater,
or sarin nerve gas into its storage reservoir, causing it to come
through the ‘geological strata’ to ultimately come out of that
Plaintiff’s faucet, that is just tough luck.” Eisenmann v. The
People’s Gas Light and Coke Co., No. 2018-L-108 (Champaign Co.,
Ill. ) (Aug. 28, 2020 Order). As a result of People’s Gas failure
to take responsibility, and its actions that run counter to prior
agreements to protect area groundwater, the class action lawsuit
seeks to hold the company accountable for all area residents.
Although Peoples Gas stores natural gas beneath the Mahomet
aquifer, the gas itself is purely for storage or for use by
Chicagoans in the winter months, meaning rural Mahomet and Fisher,
Illinois residents face life-altering consequences due to gas and
fuel that they don’t benefit from, according to the suit.
The suit also claims that Peoples Gas intentionally misled the
public by attempting to cover up the gas leak and the risks it
creates for the public, while also engaging in multiple counts of
mail and wire fraud to collect a profit while residents suffered
from the contaminated water.
According to the complaint, Peoples did periodically file
incident reports with the U.S. Department of Pipeline and Hazardous
Materials Safety Administration but routinely misrepresented the
severity of the issues.
“We live in one of the most developed countries in the world and
these residents are fighting for one of the most basics human
rights – access to potable drinking water,” said James Spiros,
founding partner of Spiros Law. “What is most galling is that
Peoples made a mindful decision to skimp on testing and
maintenance, knowing the impact that would have on families across
Residents and homeowners who are interested in learning more
about this class-action suit are urged to send their contact
information to email@example.com.
FeganScott is a national class-action law firm dedicated to
helping victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Beth Fegan,
the firm’s founder and managing member, represents the group of
survivors suing criminally convicted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The firm, championed by acclaimed veteran, class-action attorneys
who have successfully recovered $1 billion for victims nationwide.
FeganScott is committed to pursuing successful outcomes with
integrity and excellence while holding the responsible parties
accountable. To sign up for case updates, email
About Spiros Law
Spiros Law is a Personal Injury law firm that takes cases all
over Illinois. Founded in 2005, Spiros Law has offices in Danville,
Kankakee and Champaign, Illinois. Spiros Law represents those who
have been severely injured due to someone else’s negligence. They
have built and continued to maintain the reputation of being a
leading Central Illinois Personal Injury law firm by aggressively
representing their clients and having a passion for obtaining
justice on their behalf. To learn more about Spiros Law, visit
www.spiroslaw.com where you can find additional information to help
guide you in the right direction if you are looking for legal
Case No. 1:22-cv-01124
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Mark Firmani firstname.lastname@example.org 206.466.2700
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