Chicago couple accused of faking mercury contamination

A Chicago couple who aroused media sympathy last summer when they were forced to leave their home due to mercury which had leaked from their gas meter, are now being accused of staging the contamination and have been indicted on charges of theft and conspiracy, reports the New York Times.

In September last year, the Nicor gas company warned William Fritz and Alanna Weber-Fritz of the possibility of mercury contamination from their mercury-filled gas meter in their home in the Arlington Heights suburb. That same week, the Illinois attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit saying that Nicor’s mercury removal programme was violating environmental laws and endangering public health. Although an initial inspection at the Fritz’s home found no mercury, one carried out a week later revealed scattered beads of the liquid metal. The couple and their four children were then evacuated, but were forced to leave behind their pet dog because of the levels of mercury on its paws. Nicor then spent $278,000 on decontaminating the house, and on hotel and car rental costs for the family. The dog had to be shaved and bathed.

However, a special prosecutor for Cook County has now stated that the authorities can prove that the mercury found in the Fritz home was placed in the house, and did not come from a gas meter. Investigators employed by Nicor state that the beads of mercury had been in the house only a few days before they were found, and that the house head never been equipped with a mercury-filled gas regulator.

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