LA gas well could be catastrophic: Residents warned to prepare for a massive explosion as huge crater forms around wellhead

LA gas well could be catastrophic: Residents warned to prepare for a massive explosion as huge crater forms around wellhead

February 2nd, 2016, by Greg White

Public officials continue to believe that the natural gas leak near Porter Ranch would not result to long-term health consequences. Nevertheless, thousands of residents have been relocated and school campuses have been closed due to fears of a natural gas explosion rocking the area.

South California Gas Company has been trying to prevent an explosion, which state regulators now regard as a significant concern. The seventh attempt to plug the well stirred even more hazardous conditions on the site.

“We recognize that the residents of Porter Ranch have been greatly affected by the situation. We hope there will be a solution soon and that they can get back to their normal lives,” county Interim Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said.(1)

The crater extends 25 feet deep, 80 feet long and 30 feet wide, according to officials. The well pipe and its control valves are exposed and unsupported inside the hole, on top of a deep field of pressurized gas.(2)

Gas company crews have been working to stop the leak by drilling a “relief well,” which could enable them to plug the leak and shut down the well. Workers are not anticipated to reach the base of the well, 1.6 miles underground, for another six weeks.(2)

County officials stated that the South Coast Air Quality Management District was expanding its air testing to detect more chemicals over longer stretches of time.

“If the wellhead fails, the thing is just going to be full blast,” Gene Nelson, a physical sciences professor at Cuesta College, told the LA Times. “It will be a horrible, horrible problem. The leak rates would go way up.”(2)

On Monday, the utility claimed that the relief project was ahead of schedule and was expected to be completed by February, if not sooner. Despite these assurances, however, many residents have chosen to flee the Porter Ranch area.

“You can’t expect thousands of families to move out of the area without it having an impact on the local economy,” Rana Ghadban, executive director of the 400-member Chatsworth/Porter Ranch Chamber of Commerce, told sources.(2)

Authorities stated Wednesday they were trying to acquire a declaration from the U.S. Small Businesses Administration that would permit impacted business to seek “bridge loans.”(1)

Students were relocated from two Porter Ranch Schools this month due to the gas leak. Gov. Jerry Brown even declared the natural gas leak an emergency on January 6th and said the costs attached to the leak must be paid in full by the South California Gas Company.

During Wednesday’s news conference in downtown Los Angeles, officials said they were meticulously monitoring the gas leak.

Some residents are feeling the short-term ill effects of exposure to sulfur-containing compounds found in odorless natural gas. However, public health officials so far do not believe this will lead to long-term health problems.

A federal study released several years ago found Alabama residents who were exposed to analogous compounds experienced similar symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness and irritation. The residents, however, experienced no long-term side effects.(1)

Regardless, health officials said air monitoring is currently being expanded. More information should be available in one to two weeks.

The cancer-causing benzene levels in the Porter Ranch community are the most cause for concern. Thus far, benzene levels at Porter Ranch have been consistent with the rest of Los Angeles. Out of more than 1,000 measures, only 15 had levels that were alarming.(1)

“We don’t know if tomorrow’s benzene level is going to be that much different from today,” Dr. Cyrus Rangan, medical toxicologist with the county Department of Public Health, told sources. “So that’s why we want to do this time-integrated, 12-hour, continuous monitoring of benzene — to make sure we have a handle on it on an everyday basis.”(1)

The county Fire Department has contrived a plan in case an explosion is triggered by the South California Gas Company’s efforts to fix the gas leak.



Leave a Reply