Massive California gas leak provokes anger

January 9, 2016 by Jocelyne Zablit
Infrared image released by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) shows methane gas leaking from the the Southern California Gas C
Infrared image released by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) shows methane gas leaking from the the Southern California Gas Company's (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon site near the Porter Ranch suburb of Los Angeles

For several weeks, Sam Mongeau's three-year-old daughter Bella has had a lingering cough, while other members of his family have experienced nose bleeds, headaches and fatigue.

Mongeau, 40, blames it all on a massive gas leak near his home in Porter Ranch, a sleepy middle-class community northwest of Los Angeles, where a state of emergency was declared by California's governor earlier this week.

"Everyone's been getting sick," Mongeau, a sales manager at an area auto dealership, told AFP.

"It's almost like you wake up every day from anesthesia, feeling groggy, tired."

The leak was detected on October 23 in an underground natural gas well at the Southern California Gas Company's (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon site—one of the largest gas facilities in the United States.

The well sits about 8,700 feet (2,651 meters) underground, and the leak is thought to come from a broken pipe about 500 feet below the surface.

Repeated efforts to stop the leak by pumping liquid and mud down the well have failed, and the gas company is now drilling a relief well to intercept and plug the damaged well.

The operation is expected to take until late February or March.

'Get some fresh air'

That timeline is not soon enough for the area's 30,000 residents, many of whom say they are getting sick from the rotten-egg smell of the odorant put into the gas to help detect leaks.

The leak was detected on October 23 in an underground natural gas well at the Southern California Gas Company's (SoCalGas) Aliso
The leak was detected on October 23 in an underground natural gas well at the Southern California Gas Company's (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon site

"I have been getting nausea and headaches," said Linda Noel, 50, as she waited outside a center set up by the gas company to assist area residents. "Everyone in the family has been to the doctor or to urgent care.

"All I want is to get out of here and get some fresh air."

Suna Najar, 46, said she has been getting rashes on her neck and face, and her 12-year-old daughter regularly has nose bleeds.

"We are four in the family and they are offering to relocate us to one hotel room," she said. "You feel like this is totally out of your control and that you're at everyone's mercy."

More than 10,000 residents have so far been relocated by the gas company and hundreds more have asked to be moved. Two local elementary schools have shut down, and the students are being shuttled to other districts.

A resident (L) discusses her housing situation with a SoCal Gas employee at the SoCal Gas Community Resource Center in Porter Ra
A resident (L) discusses her housing situation with a SoCal Gas employee at the SoCal Gas Community Resource Center in Porter Ranch, California

Meanwhile some 1,000 people have joined a class-action suit against SoCalGas, many encouraged by well-known environmental activist Erin Brockovich, who works for a legal firm and who has held several town meetings with residents.

Brockovich's story of taking on corporate America was made into a movie in 2000 that earned Julia Roberts an Oscar.

The gas company and health officials say the gas leaking from the facility poses not health risk. Experts however say the will be significant, as methane is a .

The leak is spewing about 1,000 tons of methane a day, experts say, the equivalent to pollution produced daily by 4.5 million cars.

"To put this into perspective, the leak effectively doubles the (methane) emission rate for the entire Los Angeles basin," said Stephen Conley, a scientist at the University of California in Davis.

"On a global scale, this is big."

Michael Mizrahi, a spokesman for SoCalGas, said while the company fully realizes that the leak has disrupted the lives of local residents and will have an environmental impact, it was doing its utmost to remedy the situation and was closely monitoring air quality in Porter Ranch.

He said crews were working around the clock to stop the leak, which has cost SoCalGas $50 million (46 million euros) so far.

"Everybody wants to call this an environmental disaster, I'm not going to use those words," he said. "We know this is a major incident and our goals are to continue to stop the leak and serve the community, period.

"We are doing the very best we can do."

Explore further: California gas leak forces relocation of thousands since October

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7 comments

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NoStrings
5 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2016
"We are doing the very best we can do." Famous last words of people, just before they get fired (and, not often enough, prosecuted). When their 'best' is so inadequate when dealing with the fubar they created.
katesisco
1 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2016
My concern led me to research carbon monoxide poisoning. Did you know it is the leading cause of death in industrialized countries. Did you know people respond differently. Did you know it can have permanent harm even at low doses.
Hospital support groups have a wonderful opportunity to provide the Masimo SET Rainbow Tec non invasive diagnostic tool for in-house 10 minute return for carbon monoxide Hb disclosure.
People would not be sent home with a viral diagnosis or flu. This is the most pressing non identified medical problem in the United States.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Jan 09, 2016
Did you know it is...


Did you know your post smacks an awful lot like viral marketing?
IronhorseA
not rated yet Jan 09, 2016
"That timeline is not soon enough for the area's 30,000 residents, many of whom say they are getting sick from the rotten-egg smell of the odorant put into the gas to help detect leaks.

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...tml#jCp"

They don't put the odorant in the gas at the well. It's put in once they get it to the surface. If the residents are smelling a rotten egg smell, then something besides methane is coming from the well which, considering the messiness of organic processes, wouldn't be surprising.
Vietvet
3 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2016

They don't put the odorant in the gas at the well. It's put in once they get it to the surface. If the residents are smelling a rotten egg smell, then something besides methane is coming from the well which, considering the messiness of organic processes, wouldn't be surprising.


The gas that's leaking was injected into an old oil formation. The gas was delivered via
pipelines, the odorant was added before the gas ever reached California.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2016
Must be the Russian Aggression™
IronhorseA
5 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2016

They don't put the odorant in the gas at the well. It's put in once they get it to the surface. If the residents are smelling a rotten egg smell, then something besides methane is coming from the well which, considering the messiness of organic processes, wouldn't be surprising.


The gas that's leaking was injected into an old oil formation. The gas was delivered via
pipelines, the odorant was added before the gas ever reached California.

Ah, my mistake, I saw the word 'well' and assumed that was where they were pumping it out of the ground, rather than it being used to mean storage.

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