State senator hopes gas-leak detector bill can prevent catastrophes like house explosions

Authorities say one person was killed Tuesday, June 4, 2024, when a house exploded in the 23500 block of North Overhill Road near Lake Zurich. Investigators searched through the rubble Wednesday searching for clues to what caused the explosion.

If Tuesday’s house explosion in Lake Zurich is determined to have been caused by a natural gas leak, one state senator from McHenry says it would be another example of the dangers he hopes his proposed legislation can prevent.

Republican state Sen. Craig Wilcox of McHenry introduced the Fuel Gas Detector Act in February 2023, and hopes to continue negotiating for a version of it to become law during this summer’s veto session in Springfield.

“If you believe in the democratic process, it requires a back-and-forth discussion,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said he’d prefer the need for the law to be recognized without explosions like ones in Oak Park and Woodstock last year forcing the conversation.

As initially introduced, the bill would require installation of fuel gas detectors in every room with an appliance powered by propane, natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas in newly constructed residential buildings as well as all rented dwelling units.

State Sen. Craig Wilcox (R-32nd District, McHenry)

Wilcox said he hopes the law also would encourage owners of existing single-family homes to voluntarily install detectors.

He also would like to see a coalition of the governor’s office, legislature and utility companies to follow the example of New York state and make detectors centrally monitored.

The early detection of a leak amid a dense concentration of multifamily buildings could enable a mass evacuation to protect lives, Wilcox said.

He added that he has a problem with the notion that a utility company’s responsibility ends at the point where its service lines enter a residence.

Resistance to the bill has included arguments about cost and it being an unfunded mandate, Wilcox said.

But he said a detector at the point of entry to a building has an estimated cost of $100 or less, though he concedes that could add up in a multifamily building with gas powered appliances in each unit.