Mercury Spill Exercise
An Arlington Heights couple was indicted on three counts by a grand jury
Thursday for allegedly planting mercury in their home on the 200 block
of Thomas Avenue and then attributing it to leaking Nicor Gas Co. regulators,
William Fritz and Alanna Weber-Fritz will be arraigned on charges of
theft, attempted theft and conspiracy on Feb. 14, prosecutor Brian Crowe
Fritz and Weber-Fritz both passed a lie detector test administered by
their attorney, Tilden Katz, saying they did not contaminate their own
home. They were unavailable for comment.
Packer Engineering, a company hired by Nicor to investigate the mercury
spill in the Fritzes' home, released a report on Feb. 1, 2002, that said
the mercury could not have come from the home's gas regulators.
The meters in the home were not mercury-filled, Packer Engineering said.
In addition, a company representative said beads of mercury were placed
in several different places around the home, which was unlikely in a gas
"We don't know where the mercury came from, but it was not from
Nicor equipment," Nicor spokesperson Craig Whyte said.
On Sept. 22, 2001, the Fritzes appeared on television to talk about the
mercury spill in their home. The report showed the couple's four children
crying as they packed their stuffed animals for decontamination.
Nicor spent several thousand dollars helping the Fritz family. The family
and their six pets were all evacuated from the home while it was decontaminated
over a period of three weeks. The family was put up in a hotel during
the decontamination, and the pets were housed in a kennel. In addition,
Nicor provided the Fritzes with a rental van, food and clothing.
Three weeks after the story aired, Nicor hired Packer Engineering to
investigate the case. After Packer Engineering released its report, Nicor
turned the case over to the Arlington Heights police and the Cook County
Many people have condemned Nicor for not replacing old mercury-filled gas meters soon enough. In the summer of 2001, hundreds of Chicago-area homes were contaminated by mercury spills.
Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002