LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Southern California Gas Co. crews controlled the leak of natural gas from a well in Porter Ranch that has been spewing gas since late October, the utility announced Thursday.
The temporarily controlled leak Thursday has driven thousands of residents from their Porter Ranch homes and has been blamed for a variety of symptoms including headaches and nausea.
Southern California Gas Co. tried unsuccessfully for weeks to force mud into the well to stop the leak. It had to drill a second well that intercepted the pipe a mile and a half underground.
The well is not permanently sealed, but if the plug holds it will be cemented closed.
“We have temporarily controlled the natural gas flow from the leaking well and begun the process of sealing the well and permanently stopping the leak,” said Jimmie Cho, SoCalGas senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity, and SoCalGas incident commander.
Residents in Porter Ranch who temporarily relocated because of the odor from the gas leak have been notified, along with other residents of Porter Ranch, officials said.
Matt Pakucko, president of the group Save Porter Ranch, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO while the news is welcome, they’re not exactly celebrating just yet.
“Everything is really temporary and we won’t know for sure until that thing is cemented top to bottom, which by the way they’re not going to do in the first step,” Pakucko said. “It will take several months for them to do the final, permanent seal of the well, so everything is temporary until that is done, as far as we’re concerned.”
Once state inspectors declare the well permanently sealed, displaced residents will have at least a week to return home.
SoCalGas officials say crews will continue preparing to drill a back-up relief well “as a precautionary measure” until the leak has been stopped permanently, although when that might occur “has not been determined yet.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made a statement following the news about the leak.
“I am relieved to hear that SoCal Gas has ‘intercepted’ the Aliso Canyon gas leak. This is a critical step for the health and safety of the residents of Porter Ranch and Los Angeles. I will continue to focus on helping the businesses and residents of Porter Ranch as they seek to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure the safety and vibrancy of this incredible neighborhood, but this is welcome and long-overdue good news.”
The activist group Food & Water Watch accused SoCal Gas of overplaying their progress. In a statement, they said:
“The announcement today about the leak is just more hot air… This premature celebration only leads to further distrust of the Gas Company. Of course the community wants the leak stopped, but that doesn’t go far enough. This facility needs to be shut down permanently because it’s too dangerous and we can’t trust this company to operate in good faith.”
CBS2’s Randy Paige spoke to SoCal Gas spokesman Mike Mizrahi who said residents could trust the company adding there will never be any methane gas coming from that well ever again.
“It is over,” he said, “There is no gas that is leaking out of that well.”
When asked what the workers’ reaction was when the well was finally capped, Mizrahi said they were thrilled.
“I’ll sum it up with one word — elation. We’re all very pleased because there have been a lot of people that have worked very hard on this project. We are excited for the community to know that this is over now.”
Paula Vracium, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, believes it will take some time for life in the community to get back to normal.
“There’s going to be a version of PTSD,” she said, “as people move back in their homes, that every time they smell something they’re going to be scared it’s happening again.”
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