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Heartland Greenway has spared no expense in mass mailings, and radio and print ads to attempt to convince the residents of Christian County that the proposed CO2 pipeline and dump site is entirely safe. They claim the CO2 will remain 6,000 feet underground.
Well, it’s time for the people to hear more of the story, the part Heartland doesn’t want them to hear. Using underground rock formations to store gases has been done in other places in Illinois and has had some dire consequences. Let’s look at the fiasco closest to Christian County, just miles down the road in Champaign County.
People’s Gas Company, a Chicago utility company, pumped natural gas 4000 feet under the Mahomet Aquifer for storage. Of course, they claimed it was entirely safe and wouldn’t move. They assured residents that the rock cap would keep the gas in place underground. In 2017, it was discovered that methane gas had indeed leaked into and contaminated the aquifer. Initially, five homes were identified as having wells contaminated, some to the extent that tap water could be set on fire as it came from the tap. The number of affected wells has now risen to 30 homes and that number continues to increase.
People’s Gas has provided gas and water separators and bottled water for these homes but has largely ignored any responsibility beyond that. The Attorney General of Illinois filed a suit against People’s Gas but even that has provided no relief for affected families and methane gas continues to leak into the Mahomet Aquifer.
Of course, there really isn’t a way to get the methane out of the water and the only remedy is to look for other water sources. In 2020, the Illinois legislature approved $3.8 million dollars to initiate a $10 million dollar project to bring water to these homes via the Sangamon Valley Public Water District but that money has never been released and these homes continue without safe water.
These families need safe water and it should be financed by the company that created the problem. The taxpayers of Illinois shouldn’t be on the hook for the damages caused by a company pocketing the profits and not cleaning up their own mess.
The Heartland Greenway project can’t “ensure” (as they repeatedly claim) that the CO2 will stay under a rock cap 6000 feet underground. If undetected fractures already exist in the rock cap or develop over the next 100 years, the CO2 will rise and may contaminate our aquifer and ground water as well as damage soils. When CO2 mixes with water, it doesn’t just become the bubbles in your soda. It forms carbonic acid which can leach heavy metals from the rocks in the aquifer; heavy metals that contaminate drinking water.
The Mahomet Aquifer contamination is by no means an isolated incident; but that’s a conversation for another day.
Karen Brockelsby, Edinburg