The maximum and average daily levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene are higher in Burbank and the Los Angeles basin than they are in Porter Ranch, according to data analyzed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Gas has been spewing from a well leak in Aliso Canyon for the past three months, prompting relocations for residents in the Porter Ranch community.
Jason Low, atmospheric measurements manager for the AQMD showed graphs comparing the benzene levels to representatives of homeowner groups Thursday at the Porter Ranch Community Advisory Committee, a SoCal Gas-funded group that acts as an information hub for residents.
The AQMD monitors background, or everyday, levels of various compounds in Burbank and the L.A. basin. Those two areas are the closest to Porter Ranch that can be used as a comparison to tell how out-of-the-ordinary the benzene levels are in neighborhoods near the leaking well.
Low said the levels of methane leaving the leaking well are far lower in recent weeks than in the early days of the incident.
Porter Ranch and adjacent communities had made 2,109 air quality complaints since the Oct. 23 well rupture. A normal year would generate a combined 8,000 to 10,000 air quality complaints from L.A, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, an AQMD official told the group.
In other Porter Ranch updates:
The number of households relocated from their Porter Ranch, Chatsworth, Granada Hills and Northridge homes is up to 4,500, said Gillian Wright, SoCal Gas vice president for customer service. She estimates that represents about 13,500 individuals living in hotels, motels or rental properties at about $250 per unit per day. Another 1,157 families have received offers of alternate housing and 2,226 more families are in the process of inquiring about moving out of the area. About 90 percent of the relocated households are within a 5-mile radius of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field and the leaking well. The rest are outside that perimeter.
With SoCal Gas saying it is within a month or less of plugging the leaking well, residents who relocated are starting to plan for moving back to their homes. The court order governing SoCal Gas’ relocation plan says the company may stop paying for hotels and other rentals 48 hours after the state and gas company certify the leak is fixed and the air pollution ended. The actual timeline when funding of alternate homes is less fixed, however. The company will honor terms of leases, even if they run past the date the well is fixed. However, other subsidies to cover expenses like commuting and utility bills would end, Wright said.
SoCal Gas has said it would cover the cost for the residents closest to the leak to power wash oily residue from their homes, but it had not set a policy for what other cleaning measures it would pay for throughout the affected area, like shampooing carpets, Wright said. Opening windows and letting an air scrubber run should be enough to improve the air quality within homes, she said.
The gas leak has been good for the air purifier and scrubber business. The company has installed air scrubbers in classrooms in every school within the five-mile perimeter of the leak. Granada Hills Charter High School, for example, has 110 of the plug-in units. The company had ordered some 11,000 air purifiers to install in homes and businesses in the area.
Other help may be on the way for businesses suffering a downturn with the absence of so many customers from the leak area.
The Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management wants to hear from at least five businesses that can document loss of revenue this year over last.
Those businesses would help the county apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration to make low-interest loans available. Home-based businesses are also eligible for the help, so the county wants to hear from them as well.
The Chatsworth/Porter Ranch Chamber of Commerce plans a workshop Feb. 24 to help local businesses respond to the legal, financial and workplace challenges the leak has raised.
Taxes and insurance
The gas leak and the states of emergency declared by Los Angeles city and count and the governor have created questions among residents about how their home and business insurance rates might change, whether their home values might fall and whether the county would lower home assessments and tax bills. John Bwarie, executive director of the Porter Ranch Community Advisory Committee, said he would ask officials of the county Assessor and Tax Collector’s office to speak to the group about those issues at a future meeting.
— Associated Press
U.S. senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein say they will seek federal review of the ongoing leak.
The California Democrats plan to introduce an amendment to energy legislation currently on the Senate floor.
The amendment would direct Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to lead a review of the cause and response to the leak at SoCal Gas’ Aliso Canyon site.
Boxer says in a statement Friday that it’s been frustrating to watch the crisis unfold.
Feinstein says they have a responsibility to not only address the leak but to ensure that nothing like it happens again.
This story has been updated.