Evanston Says Utilities Threaten Its Water

CHICAGO (CN) — Major utility companies are threatening Evanston’s drinking water with carcinogenic chemicals, the Chicago suburb says in a federal lawsuit.
     Evanston, pop. 76,000, is the first, and largest, lakeside suburb north of Chicago. It claims
     Northern Illinois Gas Co. and Commonwealth Edison are polluting soil and groundwater at the Skokie Manufactured Gas Plant. Northern Illinois Gas is also known as Nicor.
     Waste oils already have contaminated 300 acres, the city says, and given the oils’ high density and low viscosity, it will take just a few years to sink to the bedrock. As the oils degrade, they release methane gas, which has been detected at high concentration and pressure under James Park, near Dawes Elementary School and the Levy Senior Center, according to the complaint.
     “The city seeks to have Nicor and ComEd held responsible for (i) the MG [manufactured gas] waste oils contamination in and around the impacted area and (ii) the methane, both of which threaten public health and safety,” Evanston says.
     It says Nicor has refused to cooperate with its efforts to find the leak, and provided misinformation, in bad faith, to thwart the city’s investigation.
     For its part, “ComEd has simply ignored the city’s communications,” Evanston says.
     It seeks an injunction forcing the utilities to stop the contamination, and punitive damages for trespass, nuisance, breach of contract, and violations of the Hazardous Substances Ordinance and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
     Nicor said the lawsuit is just a refiling of a lawsuit already dismissed by the Federal Court.
     “Nicor Gas fully cooperated with the City of Evanston and investigated its concerns,” Nicor spokesperson Jae Miller said in an emailed statement. “That investigation demonstrated that Nicor Gas is not the cause of the city’s concerns. The city’s underlying allegations that materials traveled below ground from the former manufactured gas plant in Skokie, approximately a half-mile or more away from James Park, are without basis.”
     Miller said Nicor and ComEd “fully remediated the former gas plant under IEPA [Illinois Environmental Protection Agency] supervision.”
     Evanston is represented by Michael S. Blazer with Jeep & Blazer in Chicago.

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