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Illinois List of the Harmed – Video & Photos

We have begun compiling a list of individuals and families in Illinois who have been or are currently being harmed (i.e., negatively impacted) by oil and gas exploration, production and delivery in Illinois. When there are photos or video, we include it by permission. Will we continually add to this page, so please bookmark it for future reference and share this with your legislators.

Our timeline currently begins in 1977 and progresses to present day. We add information as it becomes known.

To add a story of harm from Illinois oil and gas industry activity to this timeline, send your information, inclusive of photos if you have them, to We prefer to note your name and location, but if you feel you must remain anonymous, we will honor that request.

Currently, our timeline is also including stories from citizens who are being bullied by industry reps, or “landmen” over the past months, trying to coerce them into signing leases.

In addition, in the “Other Incidents” section, there are excerpts from individuals who have told us a story of harm as it relates to existing rural industrial processes, and what the impending arrival of high volume horizontal fracking in Illinois is likely to bring to rural residents.

This is our pulse on Illinois citizens experience with the harms caused by oil and gas exploration, production and delivery. Within the aggressive climate of profit and gain, it remains SAFE’s stance that there be no “sacrifice zones” that allow some citizens to profit monetarily while other citizens suffer harm to their health, water, air, soil and animals.


Clinton County

Charles Vonder Haar Dairy Farm, RR #1, Caryle, Illinois EPA reports that abandoned brine holding ponds clearly leached salt water into the shallow aquifer (used at the farm for water supply) and spread outward contaminating two large diameter water wells on the Vonder Haar farm.

In the case of the Vonder Haar farm, the combination of leakage in one or more of the oil wells was documented as causing water quality in the farm water wells to deteriorate rapidly. The report summarized that the salt water leaking into the water wells was the result of old abandoned brine holding ponds, abandoned over two years before. The problem was suggested as aggravated by leakage from abandoned wells with broken seals, unknown and unplugged wells, and injection in or pumping of existing wells and animal waste.

Side Bar: On a recent visit to Illinois House Representative Bost, he questioned whether or not this brine report contaminated “ground water” or the “aquifer” (as if contaminating one is any less harmful than contaminating the other, or as if ground water is a sensible sacrifice for oil). Groundwater is considered an aquifer regardless of whether it is shallow or deep. Aquifer indicates substantial water for useable purposes.


Crawford County

Laird Dart, Dogwood Creek Farm, Oblong, Illinois

Sterile cornfield

“This is all sterile,” he says with a sweep of his hand across the patch, which runs 660 feet long and 18 feet wide. “Nothing will grow here. You can’t keep it from washing away.” The culprit: a long-abandoned oil well whose rusty pipes are leaking salt water into the soil Dart farms. A soil conservation expert once estimated 900 tons of dirt had washed away from the patch, he says.

Several hundred yards away, the earthy smell of crude oil oozes through the air next to a cluster of rusty oil storage and separation tanks. Some of the tanks, in a low wooden shed, have been leaking. A reddish-black goo interspersed with deep puddles of brackish water covers the ground, spilling over a tiny berm into the cornfield beyond. “There’s rules and regulations that’s supposed to keep this from happening,” Dart says in disgust.

But those rules are weak and too often ignored, Southern Illinois farmers like Dart say. Like several other southeastern Illinois counties, Crawford County is dotted with abandoned, leaking oil wells, the legacy of what one official calls the industry’s “past sins.”

Laird B. Dart, 66, Oblong, Illinois passed away at 8:28 a.m. Sunday, March 27, 2011, at his residence. Laird was a self employed farmer and oil producer.

Hardinville, Illinois

Water Contamination

Residents pay for treated water because oil and brine have contaminated many wells. “Most of the people around here get city water, even though it’s expensive,” said Bill Rosborough, a farmer and real estate broker living in Hardinville.

Abandoned oil wells serve as conduits for oil and brine to contaminate aquifers as the underground system is pressurized from oil/gas production. According to the Lieutenant Governor’s office, in 2012, IL has over 6,000 abandoned oil wells and IDNR says it will be decades before all of the wells can be properly plugged.


White County

Steve Combs

Mr. Combs and residents in proximity to him experienced contamination of their well water at the same time as a known leak in a local injection well (frack waste-water disposal well). This waste includes open, unlined waste pits; sterilization of cropland; leaks from the well itself; and soil contamination following a fire/leakage at a storage tank.

White County

The report on Mr. Combs’ water reads “this water is very highly mineralized and would be expected to be highly corrosive and unfit and unsafe for most domestic uses without extensive and very expensive treatment.” Mr. Combs has a document regarding the original drilling of his water well at which time no indication of any problem with his water quality is noted.

Open, unlined waste pit in White County near Mr. Combs.

Mr. Combs is currently experiencing health problems, but due to lack of medical insurance and without proper and extensive (and expensive) water testing, Steve’s health problems are undiagnosed and unproven to be related to the contaminated well.

White County: remains of tank fire.

Other Residents in White County

Other residents in White County have well water that went bad at the same time as Mr. Combs (above). Water conductivity readings are well above acceptable limits. Conductivity is a basic reading of water purity; any reading over 1050 ms/cm is considered unacceptable.

Teklab in Collinsville, IL notes that in time, water with high conductivity like this will cause health issues over time such as high blood pressure, liver and kidney disease and neurological problems.

One resident she said they would switch over to using municipal water for safety.


Hamilton County

Dwayne Felty

Explosion/fire/vegetation kill/soil contamination/air contamination

Firefighters putting out a well explosion just hundreds of feet from Mr. Felty’s new home. He bought the home, and two months later this newly stimulated oil well blew. Unbelievably, he was accused and interrogated of starting the fire.

Mr. Felty purchased the property in 2012. He does not own his mineral rights. The oil company cleared a road onto his property. Mr. Felty had to convince the local fire department to come put out the explosion and fire which occurred when the oil company started pumping the old oil well on his property.

Immediate damage from this incident included: soil contamination/vegetation kill/stifling air contamination in the area from subsequent ongoing venting of methane/dumping of unknown materials into a nearby field.

Hamilton County, adjacent to Mr. Felty’s home.

The topsoil has since been replaced, but Mr. Felty still has no idea of lingering soil and possible water contamination. Mr. Felty conveyed the sense of violation and fear that his home and property are at the mercy of someone else’s actions.

Soon this topsoil would be replaced. See next photo.

Fresh dirt cover-up. Looks good, but what residues are left behind in the soil? And what happens when it rains…does the water leach out into that corn? Who will be using that harvest of corn, and for what?

He wants to find out what his rights are regarding the damaged trees, the possibility of future easements demanded by the oil industry and mineral owners, what they are dumping in his tillable field, damages from the fire, future damages. His house is only hundreds of feet from the oil pump, and he wishes to remodel.


Wayne County

Wayne County Blowout – Two Injured

Fairfield Rig Explosion Highlights Loopholes in Illinois Fracking Regulations

On a sub-zero degree Monday, January 27th, the casing blew out of a Woosley Operating Company oil rig near Highway 15 southeast of Fairfield, IL, wherein, two SAFE volunteers witnessed the wreckage the following Tuesday morning.  Local reports said that two workers were injured in this explosion.  A Wayne County Press article downplayed it as a “hydrogen” frack on a conventional vertical oil well.  However, witnesses documented a Nabors nitrogen tanker truck, Franklin Well Services trucks that were removing damaged rig parts, an open unlined waste water pit, and the frozen blowout fluid all over the immediate adjacent cornfield where there was no setback for the rig or pit.  What appeared to be a volunteer firefighter truck and state government minivan were onsite. Franklin Wells Services is a drilling fluids and fracking supply and equipment company, with Halliburton related methods, and offices in Vincennes, IN and Lawrenceville, IL. Nabors, a very large global drilling company, that drilled the world’s first horizontal well, also does slant drilling and offshore drilling.  Apparently this operation, that appeared to be an unsuccessful nitrogen test frack, was in violation of existing regulations, but SAFE does not have further information on its status.  SAFE witnesses reported their findings to the Attorney General’s office, but decisions rest with IDNR on how to handle the incident.  This “dry fracking” method is increasingly being used to decrease the large volumes of water required for horizontal hydraulic fracturing, but it too is done with various chemicals — nitrogen, CO2, propane being common.  Acidizing is another method, whereby the sediment is dissolved vs. fractured during the drilling process.  These alternative methods generally do not use more than 80,000 gallons of base fluid in any stage or more than 300,000 gallons total, which are the quantities of base fluid that trigger the definition of “high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing,” circumventing the new Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.  This and other legal research into citizen rights has caused SAFE to reframe its thinking about fracking, wherein all manner of subsurface trespass must be considered.  Our next education, lobbying and legal efforts will incorporate further consideration of these evolving methodologies.

Frozen fluid from the blowout, spread about the cornfield.

Rig coated with frozen fluid from the explosion, with open unlined waste water pit in foreground.

The open, unlined waste water pit near the frack rig.

Franklin Well Services truck, hauling off the damaged rig parts.

Nabors nitrogen tank truck.

Close-ups of the distinctive HazMat 1977 placard and nitrogen label on the Nabors truck.

Other Incidents

Illinois Resident Witness to Contamination

An Illinois resident at a public forum in Wayne County in May, 2012, stated that he personally witnessed frack fluids coming back up an abandoned well and polluting the surroundings. He was angry that industry reps were bullying the farmers from Pennsylvania who came to Southern Illinois to warn us about fracking, and stormed out of the event after speaking up. We wish he would come forward and identify himself and tell us more.

Bullying of an Elderly Williamson County Resident

At a public forum on fracking held in Williamson County on July 25th, 2012, Williamson County Commissioner Ron Ellis publicly stated that an elderly Williamson County resident confided in him that landmen had harassed and bullied her into signing a lease, which she immediately deeply regretted.

John Alexander, Saline County

John Alexander of Saline County, IL, describes what it is like to be surrounded by land leased for high-volume fracking. Mr. Alexander has no choice as to the risks others are willing to take regarding damage to his property, water quality, and quality of life.

This landowner has neighbors who have leased, own a lot of acreage, and do not seem to care if there is contamination. Mr. Alexander has no control over the risks his neighbors are willing to take that affect his property value, water quality, etc.

For some reason, John’s video would not imbed. Please see the link, below.

Joy Ramsey, Williamson County

Mrs. Ramsey was told by IDNR that her family would be forced to sign a lease in spite of the fact that her family owns their mineral rights. Joy and her husband are retired and live next door to their daughter and their family. They are desperate to protect their home and their family’s well-being. This is her testimony:

John Simmons, Saline County

Mr. Simmons is already trying to move to another residence because of the air contamination, shaking of his house, and constant semi-truck traffic from nearby strip mining. Fracking operations will only add to the degradation of his quality of life.

Barney Bush, Vineyard Indian Settlement, Pope County

Barney Bush, Chairman of the Vineyard Indian Settlement in Pope County, IL, speaks of the many encroaching dangers, including fracking, now threatening his land and his people.

He is trying to buy land to help prevent fracking near his home. One of his neighbors who has signed a lease, admitted he was NOT aware that high-volume fracking would be used when he signed. Mr. Bush struggles with incessant noise and air pollution from activities related to nearby strip mining. He requires respiratory therapy due to the effect on his lungs.

White County Nursing Home Resident Harassed by Landmen

Landmen were reported to aggressively attempt to force a resident in a White County nursing home to sign a lease. The person who reported this said it was very disturbing, “”like watching a hoard of invaders descend.”

Southern Illinois Landowner Sells and Leaves in Anticipation of Fracking

A landowner we met in Cobden, IL, stated that he had already sold his land because he knew there was no point in staying if high-volume fracking comes to his area.

Judy Winkeler

Judy Winkeler of Saline County, IL, has the courage to refuse to sign a lease for high-volume fracking in order to respect the well-being of the residents who would be affected. Judy did research and quickly encountered the dangers of high-volume fracking, and asks Illinois legislators to pass a moratorium so the risks and dangers of high-volume horizontal fracking can be better understood.

John Simmons

John Simmons of Saline County, IL, describes what it is like to already live near heavy industry. Serious air quality issues, constant semi-truck traffic, overall degradation of quality of life. Mr. Simmons agrees that even more heavy industry (such as high-volume horizontal fracking) will only further destroy the quality of life for Southern Illinois residents forced to bear this burden.

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