Porter Ranch gas Leak Releasing Benzene At High Levels

A California utility has admitted that high levels of cancer-causing benzene are jetting out of a massive natural gas leak that is expected to continue for weeks, leading to many questions about the degree of health risks area residents may face. 

The Southern California Gas Company indicates that sensors have detected more than a dozen spikes of benzene gas since an underground natural gas storage tank ruptured late last year in Porter Ranch, just north of Los Angeles. However, the company continues to claim that the trace levels of benzene are, overall, no danger to human health and claims that the levels are comparable to typical Los Angeles air quality.

“Out of over 1,350 air samples, benzene results have been above 1 ppb (parts per billion) 15 times on ten days: eight days in November, one day in December and one day in January,” the utility reported in a community awareness bulletin. “These fifteen results range from 1.05 to 5.55 ppb, with only three samples above 2.0 ppb.”

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The company said the short-term samples are only snap shots and can be influenced by other environmental factors, like a passing truck.

The Porter Ranch methane gas leak was discovered on October 23, at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, which is run by the Southern California Gas Company, known as SoCalGas.

While officials say it is too dispersed to ignite, many area residents have reported feeling ill, suffering nosebleeds, and worry about long-term exposure effects of the natural gas leak, which some say may not be stopped for several months. Thousands of residents have been evacuated from the immediate area.

A report by the South Coast Air Quality Management District indicated that exposure to the gases from the well should not cause an overall risk of health effects, either short-term or long term. However, the agency did note that the odorizing agents added to the natural gas, which is added to help people detect a gas leak, could cause symptoms consistent with what residents have complained about.

“There are insufficient studies available to ascertain the long-term effects of exposure to these odorizing additives,” the district warned, leading to continuing uncertainty and questions by area residents.

One proposed plan for dealing with the gas leak involved capturing and burning the gas, which the agency warned may result in a catastrophic explosion. As a result of the risk, SoCalGas announced on Monday that it was abandoning that plan.

Without the ability to capture and burn off the gas, the company estimates that the leak may not be sealed until late February.

Gas Leak Lawsuits

In addition to the cost, potential fines, and possible criminal probe into the gas leak, SoCalGas also faces a growing number of legal claims by residents.

More than two dozen individual and class action lawsuits over the Porter Ranch gas leak have been filed, as well as a public nuisance complaint by the city of Los Angeles. The cases are under consideration for mass tort consolidation for pretrial proceedings in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Some attorneys estimate that thousands of lawsuits could ultimately be filed by residents, businesses, and local communities. The company may also face penalties and lawsuits from the federal government as well.

California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department and the Transportation Department to get involved to ensure public safety and investigate how the leak occurred and whether the proper safety measures were in place.


  • RichardJuly 22, 2019 at 3:17 am

    We Have lived in the Agoura area for 20 Years and my husband was just Diagnoses with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I know benzene is a cause of this disease. I’m wondering if there is any way this benzene from porter ranch could have cause it.

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