Officials update residents in Porter Ranch gas leak

The president of Southern California Gas Co. apologized today to Porter Ranch residents for a gas leak discovered more than a month ago that has yet to be contained, and said the company will drill a
relief well that will allow the utility to permanently cap the leaking tank.

"I'm sorry. To the residents of Porter Ranch, I'm sorry, because although we worked hard to try and communicate with you what was going on, to provide you with accurate and timely information, we fell short," Dennis Arriola said during a Los Angeles City Council meeting. "We fell short of your expectations and quite frankly ours as well."


Southern California Gas Co. officials today will provide the Los Angeles City Council with an update about an ongoing gas leak near Porter Ranch that has prompted hundreds of complaints and spurred more than 200 people to relocate out of the area.

The leak was discovered Oct. 23 by crews at the gas company's Aliso Canyon storage facility near Northridge. Utility officials initially said the issue would be resolved in a few days or weeks but told the county Board of
Supervisors last week that the leak could actually take up to three months to fix.

In the meantime, SoCalGas has been providing free, temporary relocation to any affected residents, with at least 80 families taking advantage of the offer.

Councilman Mitch Englander, whose district includes the Porter Ranch neighborhood, asked utility officials to appear before the council, and he joined City Attorney Mike Feuer in calling for an investigation into the matter.

Officials with the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, city and county fire departments, and the Southern California Air Quality Management District are also expected to take questions from the City
Council today.

The county Board of Supervisors is also scheduled Tuesday to hear from California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources officials.

County health officials said last week that about 660 residents have complained of a rotten-egg smell in the area, with some reporting symptoms such as nosebleeds, headaches and nausea.

SoCalGas and public health officials have said the leak of methane does not pose a threat because the gas dissipates outdoors and is coming from a site over a mile away from -- and more than 1,200 feet higher than -- homes or public areas.

Utility officials said the leak is coming from a storage well roughly 8,500 feet underground.

County health officials have said Mercaptan, a chemical that is added to the methane to warn of the presence of the gas, is the cause of residents' symptoms, but the substance is at such low levels that there should not be any long-term or permanent health effects. Officials have acknowledged, however, that some individuals may be sensitive to the substance.

In mid-November, an oily mist was emitted into the air as crews worked to repair the leak, prompting warnings to residents to stay indoors.

The mist was released about 1:15 p.m. Nov. 13 as workers pumped a heavy brine solution into the leaking pipe, according to company spokesman Javier Mendoza. It was stopped about 2:45 p.m. and an all-clear was given at about 4:15 p.m., he said.

The mist never left the facility grounds and the warnings were issued out of an abundance of caution, Mendoza said.

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