Four Months Later, Porter Ranch Gas Leak Finally, Officially Over
The Porter Ranch Gas Leak is officially over, state officials declared on Thursday. Today's announcement comes almost exactly one week after SoCalGas announced they had successfully "controlled" the leaking well.
Following their announcement last week, SoCalGas worked to inject heavy fluids and cement into the well's broken base, sealing it off from the surface and diverting any remaining gas into a relief well that was drilled during the preceding two months.
Now that the State's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources agency has declared the leak capped, families displaced by the environmental disaster have one week to return to their homes.
Originally the utility offered a two-day window for displaced residents to return home, but residents widely rebuked the 48-hour window as insufficient time to relocate and make sure their home was safe for occupancy. SoCalGas compromised, extending the deadline to one week before they cut off relocation funds.
But some think even this period of time is insufficient. County Supervisor Mike Antonivich says there should be a 30-day window to ensure the air has cleared, according to City News Service. Regardless, the Gas Company says that, as of this writing, 1,726 households have already relocated home.
"Stopping the leak is only the first stage of recovery,'' Mayor Eric Garcetti said, in a press conference. "Thousands of lives were upended by this disaster—and the city of Los Angeles is here to help people return to their homes, start doing business again and get back to normal as quickly as possible."
To do so, the city's Department of Emergency Management will open an office in Porter Ranch to help residents displaced by the leak relocate after months spent in temporary housing, according to City News Service.
The official end of the gas leak means also that students at Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter School will be able to return to their respective campuses. The approximate 1,870 students between the two campuses have been taking classes at other schools throughout the Northwest Valley since the leak's dangers were publicized months ago.
From here, the chief questions will lie not with whether or not the Gas Company is trying to stop the leak, but will ask what the long-term health-effects the gas leak could have induced in those who were exposed to leaking toxins.
According to the L.A. Times, four pollutants in particular are of concern: methane, a greenhouse gas; mercaptans and hydrogen sulfide, which may cause symptoms like headaches and nausea; and benzene, a known carcinogen.
Of course, the headache will only continue for SoCal Gas. The company is facing dozens of individual and class-action lawsuits, investigations filed by the Los Angeles City and California State Attorneys' offices, and four criminal charges brought on by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.