Methane gas has been leaking from a ruptured well at a Southern California gas facility in Los Angeles County since October 23, 2015. Current estimates of when the leak could be capped are as late as March 2016. Some environmentalists are claiming that this is the worst disaster since BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.
According to Inside Climate News, 80,000 metric tons of methane has been let into the atmosphere making it the worst environmental disaster in the state. As stated by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in the article, this is equivalent to burning 800 million gallons of gasoline.
Thousands of families have been evacuated from the area after reports of methane exposure had been reported. Symptoms of exposure include nosebleeds, nausea, headache and skin irritation. Methane may not be the only gas being released, benzene may also be escaping with the methane. Benzene is known carcinogen.
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment stated that the illnesses being experienced by residents impacted by the methane leak could be from mercaptan. Mercaptan is an additive to the odorless methane gas. It smells of rotten eggs so that leaks can be easily detected.
SoCal Gas Company’s attempts to stop the leak have failed making the problem worse and increasing the possibility of blowout.
National Public Radio (NPR) reported that Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas) has understated the release of benzene along with the methane. Furthermore, the SoCal Gas Company’s attempts to stop the leak have failed making the problem worse and increasing the possibility of blowout. Now, fire concerns are being raised.
ABC News wrote that air regulators are now considering a burn-off the methane escaping into the atmosphere. The plan is to capture the gas and burn or filter it through carbon filters. Residents in the area are seeking to shut down the facility once the gas leak is contained. Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency for Los Angeles County in December, a relief well to stop the leak is expected to be finished in March 2016.