Southland air regulators Saturday approved a sweeping abatement order aimed at minimizing the three-month-old leak of natural gas from a Porter Ranch-area storage facility.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District hearing board voted 4-1 in favor of the order, which comes after four separate meetings in which angry residents voiced concerns to regulators and Southern California Gas Company officials about the feared health effects from the leak at SoCalGas' Aliso Canyon storage facility.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District board has heard multiple complaints from frustrated residents over the leak first detected late October in Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.
Two meetings were held in Granada Hills earlier this month. The board met again Wednesday in San Dimas, but the panel delayed any action after elected officials said meetings should be held closer to the Porter Ranch area so residents can attend.
Gas Co. officials had originally planned as part of the enforcement order to implement a system of capturing and incinerating some of the gas leaking from the Aliso Canyon storage facility. That plan was ultimately scrapped over fears that such a burn-off might spark a catastrophic explosion.
Although that proposal is now moot, AQMD executive officer Barry Wallerstein said the proposed order "still contains many important requirements to minimize leaking gas, monitor emissions and help prevent a similar incident in the future.''
According to AQMD, the proposed order would require SoCalGas to permanently shut down the leaking well, fund an independent health study to assess effects to residents, develop an enhanced leak-detection system for all wells at the facility, report all odor complaints made to the company since Oct. 23 and stop any further injection of natural gas into the storage facility while maximizing withdrawals.
A relief well that the Southern California Gas Company began drilling in early December should reach the bottom of the 8,500-foot-deep well by late February or sooner, when it will be permanently taken out of service, according to the company.
Los Angeles County health officials announced this week they were expanding their monitoring of the gas leak, noting that hundreds of residents have reported health problems such as nausea, headaches and nosebleeds due to additives in the natural gas. They insisted, however, that levels of the carcinogen benzene in the area are still too low to be considered a long-term health risk, county public health officials said.
Since the leak was detected, more than 2,500 households and two schools have been relocated, according to SoCalGas.
City News Service contributed to this report.