On Friday October 23, 2015 neighborhoods in Porter Ranch California began to steep in methane gas. The stench was so thick, frightened residents called 911. Firefighters and air quality officials who arrived at the scene told residents of a large gas leak at the nearby Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. These officials were not allowed to advise impacted families about safety or evacuation. Instead they told frightened residents to call the operator of the leaking storage facility, SoCal Gas for more information.
For the first 4 days of the massive gas leak, SoCal gas denied there was a problem. Sick and scared residents were told the company was just doing routine maintenance. When SoCal Gas finally admitted there was a massive gas leak, they told residents not to worry, natural gas is non-toxic. Deception and confusion marked SoCal’s response to the gas leak’s victims through the 100 day ordeal and it’s aftermath.
For weeks residents were told their health issues, including persistent nose bleeds, rashes, headaches, congestion and dizziness were not serious. When infrared film of the massive leak was released in December, industry and state officials finally admitted the leak was causing extensive health effects across a wide area of San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles. SoCal Gas was finally ordered to relocate sickened residents within 48 hours of a request.
By February 18, the day the leak was finally capped, an estimated 100,000 tons of gas was released into the atmosphere, making the gas leak the worst single natural gas leak in U.S. history in terms of environmental impact.
By the time the leak was stopped, six state agencies had become involved. California’s governor declared a state of emergency, school children were moved and 15,000 residents had to be relocated. These residents were told that as soon as the gas leak was sealed, their symptoms would subside and they could go back to normal life at home.
Yet, after returning home, health issues persisted. More testing showed wide-spread contamination inside homes. Residents are left to wonder what the long term health effects will be living next to the largest gas storage facility in the West.