Nearly two months after methane began leaking out of a natural gas storage facility above Porter Ranch, residents are frustrated at the slowness of repairs and what they have described as a lack of communication and information, especially when it comes to health concerns.
Resident David Balen said he was enthusiastic when he learned about sampling canisters that are being placed around the community. They are supposed to be able to determine exactly what his family is breathing since the leak at the Aliso Canyon facility.
“I’m a factual person, I need to know the facts,” he said.
One of the law firms representing residents against Southern California Gas Company is behind the idea. It has arranged for six of these around the area right now — with another six expected — to share data of what residents have been breathing for the 53 days.
“This is their home, their backyard, their health, their welfare,” said Erin Brockovich, who is consulting with one of the law firms who may be handling part of the likely legal fallout from the ongoing gas leak.
Environmental activist Brockovich has been working with law firm Weitz & Luxenberg and as part of community events that have spurred many to request more information — including air-sampling canisters.
“You’re going to have to push these companies to be transparent about what the hell they’re doing,” she said.
But SoCal Gas said it has already been doing this — using the same canisters as well as other technology — and sharing the twice-daily air samples on its website for residents. The company said those samples continue to show readings the EPA deems not harmful.
But some residents, like Balen, said they say they need more of their own information to believe it.
“When the methane is at high levels, I get headaches,” he said. “My daughter gets nausea, that’s why she’s not at school.”
Balen and his family are hoping to be relocated while the gas company works to shut off the leak, something that could take another four months.
“Hopefully the gas company will give me the go ahead so we can move,” Balen said. “Today. Tomorrow. Let’s get it going. There’s a lot of people that are waiting.”