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Locations of Gas Plants and Other Coal-tar Sites in the U.S.

THE STATE OF ILLINOIS 

Introduction

            Manufactured gas developed here due largely to plentiful coal within the State and a well-developed eastern-look rail connection to the East. Gas companies began to form in the late 1850s and again, after the war, in the 1860s. Locally-owned companies were the rule until the Chicago influence was felt, first by dozens of short-line railways and interurbans, an outgrowth of the “traction” business. Traction companies flourished in Illinois, as the invention of Illinois financiers, growing out of the new Chicago industrialism and commerce of the 1870s. Many towns soon had local traction systems of streetcars and the capitalists followed the supreme example of Samuel Insull and his North American Company of Chicago. Holding companies looked toward gas light and electricity as a means of concentrating their street railway investments. From 1898 to 1907, Insull consolidated 13 separate manufactured gas companies into Peoples. By 1900 the local gas companies were under acquisition by the traction companies, mainly operating under Chicago holding companies.

            From 1915 to 1925, the manufactured gas business had shifted almost entirely, in rural Illinois, to ownership from Chicago. Chicago holding companies were interested in uniformity of manufacture and sales and began to weave distribution networks consistent with developments in gas pipeline integrity by which adjacent towns could be served from old gas plants suitably modified and modernized to provide carburetted water gas under enough distribution pressure to reach adjacent towns. New gas holders, in the range of 3,000,000 to 2.000,000,000 cf were the means of storage and the increased distribution pressure. Some Illinois gas plants therefore were closed in the 1920s, nearly a quarter century before reliable natural gas supplies were uniformly available. Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company turned toward selling commercial and industrial heat in 1919, to protect against the inroads of electric lighting, and had captured a huge market by 1929.

            While Chicago financiers struggled for territory in Illinois, natural gas producers were targeting the State for big-time conversion. In 1925, some 11,700 natural gas customers were to be found in the State (Espy, 1935).  By 1934, 139 towns in Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota had so converted.

            As of late October, 2009, Professor Hatheway's database had logged in 520 Illinois sites where he has knowledge, direct evidence or a strong suspicion of harboring coal tar compounds, and various associated manufactured gas industry or gas by-product industry toxic residuals and/or wastes."

Click the blue "EPA" link below to view the
Illinois map of the EPA 1985 Radian FMGP Report.

Click the green "Hatheway" link below to view the
Illinois map of Professor Hatheway's research.

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