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Porter Ranch Residents Smell Gas Again, Even Though Leak Is Capped

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Months after the extensive Porter Ranch gas leak was finally capped, nearby residents say they can smell a strong odor, prompting further investigation. On Wednesday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District received around 40 complaints about the all-too-familiar scent of natural gas from people living close to the Aliso Canyon storage field, reports the L.A. Times. Reports of the smell were also posted by residents to a closed Facebook group, leading many to worry that another well might have blown. And while two air monitors in the area revealed slightly elevated methane levels, Sam Atwood, spokesman for AQMD, said that the groups inspectors could not "detect any odors in the community." Atwood added, "Specifically, they went onto the SoCal Gas storage facility site and couldn't detect any odors anywhere on the site." The source of the smell, however, remains under investigation.

Following the complaints, SoCalGas says they investigated the Aliso Canyon facility and found no evidence of a problem. "There is no indication of any gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility," Chris Gilbride, a company spokesman, told the Times. "We have conducted an investigation of facility operations and no potential source for odors at the Aliso Canyon storage facility was identified."

Attorney Jim Frantz, who represents a group of Porter Ranch residents suing SoCalGas over the leak, told the Times that he also received complaints from some clients. He has also sent an expert to test the air quality, but the results are not yet available. Eight air samples were also brought to AQMD's lab, but results won't be reported for another 24 to 48 hours, according to KTLA.

Frantz added that even before Wednesday's reports of the renewed odor, his clients still say they still experience nosebleeds and nausea, even when returning home for a brief period of time: "Our clients are still, on a daily basis, getting sick." Gas officials reported last week that some odorant vapors were released during maintenance work, according to the Times.

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The Aliso Canyon well began leaking last October and reportedly released nearly 100,000 metric tons of methane before finally being capped in February. Odorants added to the gas are considered responsible for sickening many residents who complained of headaches, nausea and nose bleeds. Earlier this month, President Obama convened a government task force to investigate the causes of the leak.

Also on Wednesday, an appeals court ruled that SoCalGas should continue to pay for the rental houses and hotel rooms for the thousands of customers who were displaced by the gas leak until at least April 27, according to KPCC. At that point another hearing is scheduled on the issue. The initial relocation period had been set to 48 hours after the gas leak was considered sealed on February 18.

Earlier this month, SoCalGas warned that the ordered shutdown of the Aliso Canyon facility could lead to 14 days of scheduled blackouts, but critics have argued that the company's 'report' is really just a scare tactic.