Dozens Claim Aliso Canyon Still Causing Illness

PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) – At a town hall Wednesday night, numerous Porter Ranch residents alleged that the nearby Aliso Canyon gas storage facility continues to make them sick, despite the fact that the methane leak has been capped.

At a Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council meeting, dozens of people went up to the microphone to list their ailments. Dr. Jeffrey Nordella, who runs a clinic in Porter Ranch, offered some guidance to residents. He said he’s been studying patients who live in the area and share similar symptoms.

“There’s an association between all the symptoms and what they’re complaining of, and the time frame, and also the chemicals that were released,” Nordella said.

The Aliso Canyon storage facility methane leak that began in October 2015 and was not capped until February 2016 emitted 109,000 metric tons of methane and displaced at least 7,000 Porter Ranch area residents for months. It was the worst methane leak in U.S. history. The facility is run by the Southern California Gas Company.

Suzanne Dersahakian says she’s been living with debilitating health issues since the leak.

“A choking cough that I get, I wake up at night, my kids run to my room to say, ‘mom are you ok?’” Dersahakian said.

Neighbors who are still feeling the effects want to know why an in-depth study of the leak has not been done. Dr. Cyrus Rangan with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says such a study would carry a price tag of nearly $40 million. Currently, the SoCalGas settlement with the Southern Air Quality Management District allotted only $1 million to such a study.

“It doesn’t even come close to scratching the surface of what needs to be done here,” Rangan said.

According to SoCalGas, public health agencies have said the air is now clean in Porter Ranch. Dersahakian has a contradicting theory.

“They do say that, but honestly, I believe it’s in the soil, we are living on it.”

SoCalGas has been prohibited from gas injection at Aliso Canyon since January of 2016. However, last month the company tapped Aliso Canyon on two separate occasions for what it termed “increased system demand” driven by the cold weather.

SoCalGas officials said the gas was taken using “only those wells that have been approved for use by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.”

Also last month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support a bill by state Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) that would extend the prohibition of gas injection into the Aliso Canyon facility until officials have determined the cause of the leak and publicly released the findings.

State regulators issued a series of proposed regulations under which SoCalGas would be able to resume injecting natural gas into the Aliso Canyon facility, but at reduced amounts and lower pressure levels than the company requested.

More from Andrea Fujii
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