By Tyler Kwon
On October 23, 2015, a well at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility began to leak, emitting as many as 50,000 kilograms of methane an hour over a four month period, according to the LA Times. This displaced thousands of Porter Ranch residents, and later called into question the efficacy of safety measures used by gas companies on a local and national level.
The leak’s short-term consequences were clear; the Los Angeles County Public Health Department logged about 2,000 calls from residents complaining of headaches during and after the leak, according to the Daily News. Complaints of bloody noses and body rashes also abounded, most likely due to irritation caused by non-toxic odorants used to signal a gas leak.
As nationally recognized public agencies, scientists, and nonprofits flew in to assess the severity of the leak, thousands of Porter Ranch families took refuge in short-term housing and hotels, while two schools, Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Elementary School, were relocated temporarily to other campuses.
The gas leak has since cost the Southern California Gas Company (So Cal Gas), the company that owns and manages the Aliso Canyon storage facility, an estimated $832 million, 60% of which went towards the relocation of Porter Ranch residents, according to a quarterly finance report.
Today, though, the concerns of residents and public health advocates alike are focused less on temporary ailments and relocation, but lie instead in the potential long-term health effects of the many carcinogens that entered Porter Ranch air, yards, and homes alongside methane gas during the leak.
Although So Cal Gas did conduct a $1 million study regarding the impacts and health risks posed by the gas leak earlier this year, public health officials were not satisfied. Many scientists and physicians alike, including Dr. Jeffrey Nordella, believe that the symptoms presented during and in the months after the leak warrant a comprehensive health study.
“Otherwise, it is scientifically irresponsible to ignore the facts and allow the continued operation of Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Field,” Dr. Nordella stated at recent presentation in Woodland Hills, in which he shared the findings of an independent health study he conducted while practicing in Porter Ranch.
Meanwhile, as the storage center has been cleared for continued operation, many Porter Ranch residents worry that another leak may occur. Some have even taken it upon themselves to lobby for its permanent closure.
On Monday, October 23, about 100 protesters gathered at the entrance to the Aliso Canyon storage facility near Tampa and Sesnon to voice their concerns, some of them wielding tombstones and shirts stating the words “shut it down.” Eighteen were arrested after being given orders by police to disperse.
In the two years since the leak first began, protesters have also gathered 10,000 signatures for a petition imploring Gov. Jerry Brown to ensure that the Aliso Canyon storage facility is closed before the end of his term. Other actions, such as bills from four California state senators, including SB 887, which seeks to establish new safety standards that would make checks for the maintenance and inspection of storage wells much more thorough.
Definitive courses of action continue to remain up in the air, and until they are
made, many Porter Ranch residents and environmental activists alike have remained anxious to see what changes may arise as a result of the leak.
“It’s been two years later, but nothing has changed,” Alexandra Navy of the Food & Water Watch organization told ABC7 News during the protests on Monday, with resident Craig Galanti also stating that, “It’s time for others to step up, because this could happen to you.”