Californians wary about Porter Ranch gas leak

A gas leak at a California storage facility affected thousands of people, causing illness and evacuation.

For four long months, people living in Porter Ranch were exposed to methane and other gases. According to the Los Angeles Times, there was a leak in a storage field that sent the gases into the air, sickening a number of people and forcing thousands to relocate.

The leak was recently sealed, but the damage has already been done. For some people, this incident has caused serious illness and significant financial losses.

What happened

The 3,600-acre storage facility, which is underground and is one of the largest such facilities in the country, has more than 100 injection wells on site. Southern California Gas has admitted that many of those wells are mechanically damaged.

CBS News reported that the gas company and state regulators knew that the situation at the facility was dire. Not only were the injection sites aging, but the way the unit was operated was poor, according to testimony and state records. The well has since been taken offline.

Widespread illness

A blowout at the facility sent more than 2 million tons of methane into the air that the people in the community of 30,000 breathe. According to The New York Times, residents have reported the following symptoms:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

One resident, a severe asthmatic, stated that when the leak occurred, she developed a chronic sinus issue. Methane is known for its ability to displace oxygen, which can lead to asphyxiation and death.

Consequences

The New York Times reports that Southern California Gas Company has already spent $300 million as a result of the blowout. Much of this is due to paying for displaced residents' housing as well as attempts to stop the leak. Both local and state officials have stated that while many people have already begun to move back home, there could still be contaminants in the air.

The gas company is also facing a number of lawsuits for damages, environmental fines and criminal charges for failing to report that air contaminants had been discharged into the air.

Looking ahead

A representative from Porter Ranch, Rep. Brad Sherman, is calling for stricter regulations on the other wells at the facility. The wells must have subsurface safety wells in addition to around-the-clock monitoring to prevent another disaster such as this from occurring.

Capping the leak was a necessary step, but there is much more work to be done in order to keep residents safe. California law does permit for victims of negligence to file a lawsuit seeking damages when acts of negligence such as this occur.

Anyone who has questions about this issue should consult with a personal injury attorney.

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