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Need to Know

Illinois AG Files Suit Against Waste Management After Gas Leak at Cortland Landfill; Firm Agrees to Additional Precautions

Nearly three weeks after a gas leak from a landfill near Cortland, Ill., resulted in 71 people being hospitalized from the Cortland Elementary School, Illinois’ attorney general has filed suit against Waste Management. Meanwhile, the firm has also agreed to take additional precautions to prevent future leaks.

According to the Daily Chronicle, “Under the initial agreement, Waste Management workers are prohibited from digging into solid waste at the Cortland area landfill if the wind is from a southerly direction in excess of 10 mph, or if other conditions would cause digging to impact air quality at Cortland Elementary School.”

Under the reported terms of the agreement, Waste Management will “have all workers and contractors wear monitors recording any levels of combustible gas, oxygen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.” The firm has also agreed “to collect within 10 days two samples from the gas collection system at the landfill, including one from the wellhead nearest to the area where crews were digging Jan. 14.” It will also notify the state’s environmental protection officials at least 24 hours before digging in waste again. And “a weather station that can monitor and record temperature, wind speed and direction and barometric pressure” will be installed at the site.

The leak occurred after contractors digging in the site hit a gas pocket. A foul odor drifted into the school’s ventilation system a mile away. Several dozen exposed were treated for low-level exposure to carbon monoxide. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has issued a preliminary report on the incident.

In a statement published in the Daily Chronicle, Lisa Disbrow, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, said, “Waste Management has been a part of this community since 1991 and, outside of this incident, has an excellent environmental record. … We remain committed to ensuring safe practices at all times at all of our sites.”

In addition to the agreed terms, the lawsuit is seeking damages from the firm, including “the statutory maximum penalty of $50,000 per violation and $10,000 for each day each violation continues.”

Waste Management officials have offered to reimburse families for medical costs incurred as a result of the incident.

Additional materials:

Court Order

Civil Complaint

IEPA Report

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