By December 29, 2015 Read More →

Porter Ranch ‘catastrophe’ caused by leaking natural gas storage cavern

Well SS-25, one of 115 on site, confirmed as source of leak, which started in Oct.

Southern California Gas Co. officials say they have pinpointed the specific well that for weeks has spewed noxious odours into upscale Los Angeles neighborhood Porter Ranch, prompting thousands of people to leave their homes over the holidays.

Porter Ranch

Well SS-25 is the source of the leak.

The utility company said Sunday it found the natural gas well, out of 115 in the area, with the use of a magnetic ranging tool that allows workers on the surface to locate underground targets as small as 7 inches in diameter.

Workers still aren’t sure exactly where the 8,700-foot well was breached but suspect it was somewhere within the first several hundred feet, Gas Co. spokeswoman Anne Silva said.

The workers are digging a relief well in the area that they eventually plan to link to the damaged well. They will then flood the leaking well with cement and permanently plug it. Officials say that work could take until March.

The gas is coming from an underground storage area more than 8,000 feet deep that can hold as much as 86 billion cubic feet.

Since the well began leaking Oct. 23, thousands of people in the Porter Ranch area say they have suffered headaches, nosebleeds, nausea and other symptoms from the escaping gas. The smell comes from an additive called mercaptan that is used to warn people of leaking natural gas, which is ordinarily odourless.

National class action firm Keller Rohrback L.L.P. is investigating claims against Southern California Gas Co. on behalf of residents of Porter Ranch.

The Gas Co. is paying to relocate those who say they are being sickened.

So far, Silva said, the utility has placed 2,258 families in temporary housing, while 111 others staying with family or friends are being compensated. More than 3,000 others are in the process of being relocated.

The Office of City Attorney Mike Feuer announced last week he is taking two significant actions to address the Porter Ranch gas leak: asking a court to issue a temporary testraining trder to enhance and hasten the relocation of families affected by the leak, and seeking to depose, under penalty of perjury, key Southern California Gas Company employees.

“It’s time Porter Ranch residents had direct and complete answers about all facets of this leak, including what caused it, how to stop it, and what will be done to assure it never happens again,” said Feuer’s chief deputy, James P. Clark.  “They should also receive better, quicker, and completely adequate relocation assistance.”

Porter Ranch is a bucolic community of large, stately homes in the foothills of the north San Fernando Valley. It is home to about 30,000 people and includes parks and hiking trails.

With files from Canadian Press.

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