Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x1 *** Nicor dumped tons of poisoned water on fields above aquifer
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*** UPDATED x1 *** Nicor dumped tons of poisoned water on fields above aquifer

Friday, Oct 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller


Lab tests from wells near Nicor Gas’ oldest underground natural gas storage facility detected alarming levels of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer.

In a violation notice issued in December 2019, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency alleged the state’s largest natural gas company broke the law and threatened the quality of groundwater when it dumped the carcinogenic wastewater into the soil.

Federal safety standards set the limit of benzene at five parts per billion. According to lab tests obtained in a Target 3 investigation, the benzene found in eight Nicor Gas wells exceeded federal safety standards for three consecutive months. One test conducted in February of 2019 detected 26,000 parts of benzene per billion, an astounding 5,200 times higher than legally allowed.

In an emailed statement, the company said it discovered benzene during regular monthly testing and reported it immediately the state’s environmental regulators.

“Nicor Gas and the IEPA have been unable to identify the source of the benzene,” spokeswoman Jennifer Golz wrote on Wednesday. “Benzene is not a chemical that we use in our processes.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, benzene “is a natural part of crude oil, gasoline,” and is a widely produced industrial chemical often associated with underground storage sites.

Gas companies like Nicor, a subsidiary of Southern Company Gas, routinely pipe fracked gas in from out of state before storing it deep underground in naturally occurring aquifers. Industry experts say the chemical liquids used in hydraulic fracturing are often kept secret as proprietary information, but several health studies and news reports have documented widespread use of benzene in fracking fluids

Go read the whole thing. Crazy.

*** UPDATE *** Nicor…

Hello Rich,

I saw your mention of the WCIA article about Nicor Gas, and I wanted to let you and your readers know that this downstate television station did not attempt to factcheck its reporting, nor has made the factual corrections Nicor Gas has requested. Therefore, I am reaching out to you directly to ensure you know that all Nicor Gas storage facilities are safe and in compliance with local, state and federal environmental standards and guidelines.

WCIA is presenting factually inaccurate information about the operation of our storage facilities in a misleading and irresponsible manner that alarms those in our state who rely on Nicor Gas to keep their families safe, homes warm and businesses running.

There are several inaccuracies in the WCIA report including assertions that Nicor Gas “dumped” contaminated water without regard. All produced water was discharged legally in seepage fields permitted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for more than 20 years. The presence of benzene was not identified in any of the company’s routine monitoring and analytical tests until 2018. Nicor Gas was first to detect the benzene, and we immediately reported this to the IEPA and implemented proactive corrective actions to stop benzene discharge, including disposal of the produced water in appropriate and permitted disposal facilities.

It’s important to note, as we have also shared with WCIA, that benzene is not used by Nicor or in natural gas operations. Its presence is not an effect of our work or processes.

The source of the benzene is still unknown. However, as soon as it was identified, Nicor Gas immediately shut in the extraction well where benzene was detected despite the challenges it would present to operations and distributing natural gas to our customers during the winter heating season. These events were happening during the same time as last year’s Polar Vortex. Without the added capacity of our underground storage, more than 700,000 customers would have been without heat during the dangerously cold temperatures.

If you’d like to learn more about how our storage ensures we are able to safely and reliability meet the energy needs of Illinoisans, I encourage you to visit

Thank you for your time and consideration to help set the record straight.


Jennifer Golz
Manager, PR & Media Relations
Corporate Communications


  1. - very old soil - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 11:12 am:

    Rich, You have a typo. The word is “aquifer”

  2. - Ok - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    The pumping of toxins into the aquifers is the feature, not a bug, of the gas industry

  3. - Publius - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 11:20 am:

    The thing that stands out is the IDPH says they were swamped. Wonder why. Also, shows that as much as everyone complains about the mean pols in Springfield taking everyones hard earned money in taxes they actually need more just to do the basics.

  4. - Nobody Sent - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 11:27 am:

    Someone should go ask the ICC why they ignored a complaint about Nicor’s Ancona-Garfield storage field leaking gas for decades. (See other WCIA report) It certainly couldn’t be due to regulatory capture. It’s not like IL utilities wield significant influence.

  5. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 11:28 am:

    It looks like several people should be going to prison, however since this is an environmental issue we’ll see a couple of 4 or 5 figure fines and nothing will happen.

  6. - Anotherretiree - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 11:38 am:

    When the CONS talk, and brag about reducing regulations…this is what they have in mind.

  7. - DuPage - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 11:43 am:

    3 things I find unacceptable:

    1. Nicor waiting 3 months to react when readings were so high. (To Nicor’s credit, at least they didn’t use the old trick of adding a lot of clean water to the mix to lower the concentration).

    2. “Secret proprietary mix of fracking fluid” has been used by some drillers as a way to dispose of hazmat chemicals secretly. The regulation allowing this should be changed right away.

    3. The concept of disposing of contaminated water by pouring it down wells should be looked at. A less dangerous disposal method should be looked at, even if it costs more.

  8. - Froganon - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 12:14 pm:

    -concept of disposing of contaminated water by pouring it down wells should be looked at-

    Oh please, this is a no brainer. Pouring contaminated water into wells must be banned. It is a criminal act. Once again we can thank the Republican Party, especially then VP Dick Cheney, for federal legislation allowing it and keeping the contents a secret.

  9. - A Jack - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 1:01 pm:

    My older brother died from a disease that is linked to benzene exposure. Since he wasn’t in the oil/gas industry (he was a chef), it was a bit of a mystery as to where he may have been exposed. Perhaps now we have a clue. Benzene may have leaked into his well water.

  10. - Mama - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 1:39 pm:

    Rich, where did this happen?

  11. - cermak_rd - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 1:42 pm:

    My father was a chemist. He waited working with Benzene. He had to get monthly blood draws from the company nurse (he charmingly referred to the poor lady as Dracula) to make sure he wasn’t developing anomalies in his bloodstream. Benzene is that dangerous.

  12. - We told you so . . . - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 1:54 pm:

    Sadly, it is not just the gas companies doing this and other atrocities. I am awake, are you?

  13. - Gus Avacados - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 2:04 pm:

    There is a pattern forming, bad drinking water in northwest Champaign County around under ground storage, Livingston County dead crop circles above under ground storage and now Troy Grove in LaSalle County. I give WCIA and Maxwell credit for chasing this down. And Capitol fax.

  14. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Oct 30, 20 @ 4:23 pm:

    To the Update:

    I was a little hungry, thanks for that word salad.

    My eyebrows always perk up when a corporations repeatedly accuses a watchdog reporter of inaccuracies but that never specifically points to any innacuracies.

    I also get a chuckle when a flak says the watchdog did not attempt to factcheck their reporting, but the story says that they got a sttement from the company.

    My take away?

    The flak is taking heat from bosses for not making the story go away, and is trying to look tough for the boss.


    The flak genuinely believes that it is the role of juornalists to take and print dictation from flaks.

    Good reporting from WCIA, keep it up.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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