As a step toward receiving outside government assistance in dealing with a massive natural gas leak above Porter Ranch, Los Angeles County will proclaim a local state of emergency, Supervisor Mike Antonovich said Wednesday.
"This action will ask for state and federal assistance to provide for our residents in the Porter Ranch area with additional air monitoring and help with efforts to cap the well," Antonovich said in a written statement.
The leak from a well in the SoCalGas storage facility in Aliso Canyon north of Porter Ranch was first reported Oct. 23. Since then, residents downwind have complained of a recurring strong odor, and many have reported becoming ill with headaches, nausea and respiratory symptoms.
Efforts to stop the leak have so far proven unsuccessful. Friday, crews working for SoCalGas began the difficult and time-consuming task of drilling a "relief" well to access the leaking well and stop the release of gas.
The drilling operation is now going "24/7," but completion could still take as long as three to four months, said Jimmie Cho, vice president of operations, at a briefing Wednesday.
Growing numbers of Porter Ranch households are taking up the Southern California Gas Company's offer to relocate them until the leak is stopped.
So far, 1,143 have been moved into temporary housing, and another 1,379 are in process, said Gillian Wright, SoCalGas vice president for customer relations.
In recent weeks, the company's response to the crisis has faced increasing scrutiny from government agencies and community groups, and has become the subject of two lawsuits, one filed by the city of Los Angeles, and another by a group of attorneys as a class action.
As part of an expanding outreach, SoCalGas announced it has launched a new website, AlisoUpdates.com, dedicated to the gas leak issue. The site includes reports on air quality readings from a network of 20 sampling stations from which samples are evaluated for certain hydrocarbons and sulfur compounds.
The company maintains it has not found levels above health risk levels set by law.
During the briefing, Wright was asked about the infrared imagery that environmental chemist Paul Rosenfeld said depicts a plume of hydrocarbons over Porter Ranch. Wright did not dispute the
description, but said analysis of air samples is more useful because it identifies the specific chemicals and their concentrations.
"Those concentrations have always been below the screening thresholds," Wright said.
The gas company also set a Dec. 18 opening date for a new storefront "community resource center" to be located in the Porter Ranch Town Center to assist residents with relocation and other issues related to the gas leak, Wright said.