Illinois: Lodene Clark lives on top of NA’s largest underground gas storage leaking so badly: “The air explodes around her home”

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The air explodes around her home by Chilliwack Progress, Feb 2, 1991

The air is known to explode on occasion around Lodene Clark’s property in Livingston County, Illinois.

Safety hazards, bad water and other concerns prompted the 62-year-old grandmother to fly out to the Fraser valley late last year to tell residents about her problems with natural gas.

I’m not an activist. I’m an old farm wife with two years of college…I’m willing to tell my story because I know what these gas companies are saying. I know there’s another side of the story.”

Clark owns a house on top of one of North America’s largest underground gas storage areas. The problem is that the gas reservoir leaks.

Clark first noticed the situation soon after storage began more than 20 years ago.

“In 1968, when this field was first going into operation, the well boiled. You could see the water boiling down there like a tea kettle would boil,” Clark said in a telephone interview.

“The well got to be very bad quality water – almost undrinkable. It became so vile you couldn’t even wash clothes with it.”

Gas began seeping through the ground and conditions got so bad that Clark began battling with the Northern Illinois Gas company. She got very little satisfaction.

“They told me it was native gas (coming out of the well) and none of their concern. Bastards! Same as what companies and regulators tell us in Canada when our water wells are contaminated by oil and gas companies.

We used to put a vented pipe on it and actually burn it to embarrass the gas company. Ha! Brilliant! Companies hate the polluting truth, especially truth they have to look at!

But the gas company was difficult to spur into action. Company officials would sympathize with Clark, but always insisted it was gas native to the area that was seeping out, not gas they were storing, Clark says.

Company officials began digging shallow holes around her property in the 1970s.

By this time gas was leaking so badly that her son would flip a match in each hole as he went out for his evening job. He could navigate his way back to the house by the burning holes.

It was proven in 1989 that is was definitely stored gas leaking, but the troubles didn’t end there.

They plugged the holes. Then fissures in the land opened up. The fissures would boil,” she says.

Unfortunately for Clark, one of those fissures is under the house where her son now lives.

But if it collected in a basement it would explode and blow the concrete cap off,” Clark says.

That very thing did happen to one of her neighbours, she says.

His pump house got covered in heavy wet snow one time when he was on vacation. The snow sealed seeping gas in the building. When he got back from vacation he turned on the taps, which caused the pump to kick in.

The resulting explosion blew the boards off the building and through the windshield of his car, Clark says.

Commissioner David Anderson visited Clark in her home recently as part of his commission inquiry into gas exploration and storage in the Fraser Valley. But the meeting didn’t go well.

“I felt I was able to tell him some of the things that have happened to me. He didn’t call me a liar but almost.”

Clark wants to settle with the gas company. Among other things, she wants a new farm to replace her 80-acre operation.

Until she gets what she wants, she says the battle will continue.

“The potential for someone being killed is very high,” she says.

More on Lodene here: Gas Patch Lie-Ability

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“If we get a leak and it’s not detected or the pipe gets weak and nobody ever inspects it, we could have an explosion like Hutchinson.”

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