In 1989, Illinois established the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Program. Officials say the ongoing groundwater contamination probe in the town of Wedron highlights the importance of the program.
The initiative gives the EPA the tools to oversee clean-up once a leak from an underground tank has been reported. The U.S. EPA also has an office committed to such efforts.
Heather Nifong is with the Illinois agency. She says they're not surprised the investigation in Wedron has unearthed multiple tanks.
"Mid-century, there were any number of corner gas stations in these towns, and there were many more tanks than there are today," Nifong said.
Nifong says the hard part sometimes is tracking down the person or company liable for the leak.
"With the older tanks, it's especially difficult because the registration wasn't in place back then. There may be many historic tanks out there and they may not be posing any sort of a problem, but they are unaccounted for," Nifong said.
To date, more than 20,000 releases have been cleaned up under the program. The state reimburses tank owners and operators when they have to pay for clean-up work. That money comes from a fund that collects dollars from the motor fuel tax, along with an environmental impact fee.
Meanwhile, a public hearing will be held this week on the contamination probe in Wedron, which is an unincorporated town in LaSalle County. On Wednesday evening, the federal EPA will update residents about the latest in its investigation. The meeting begins at 5:00 Wednesday at Dayton Township Hall.
Over the past couple of years, officials have traced the source of elevated levels benzene in the water, while sorting out alternative supplies for private wells. The meeting comes two weeks after a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by local residents. The suit, which targeted several companies cited as potential sources, claimed the contamination created a number of health risks. The plaintiffs say they will file an amended complaint.