Crews still trying to stop methane leak in Hawthorne; 37 homes evacuated

Thirty-seven homes in the city of Hawthorne have been evacuated due to a methane gas leak detected Thursday.
Thirty-seven homes in the city of Hawthorne have been evacuated due to a methane gas leak detected Thursday.
Courtesy Laurie Avocado/ Flickr Creative Commons

Crews continued work Sunday to repair water lines containing methane gas that forced the evacuation of 37 households in Hawthorne. 

L.A. County Fire spokesman Brian Jordan said fire crews were called to an area at Imperial Highway and Condon Avenue, where Golden State Water Company had been working to close a retired well. The company discovered methane had mixed with the water.

"The already had their meters out," Jordan said. "That's what they do when they work with water wells in the ground. And their meters showed levels of methane gas."

Fire officials determined that the gas could be hazardous to the neighboring community, and evacuated families to area hotels, where they're currently being put up by Golden State Water Company.

The evacuations were ordered mostly as a precaution. Jordan said there have been no reports of methane in the water system nearby.

Golden State Water also hired a contractor — Boots & Coots International Well Control, Inc. — to help stem the flow of water and methane. Boots & Coots assists in "urgent oil well emergency-type calls," Jordan said. 

"They still have to finalize their plans on how to stop the water and get the proper pump equipment and machinery to do the job correctly the first time," Jordan said. "That particular area encompasses those homes. So instead of keeping everybody at home and telling them to leave at the last minute, we've evacuated everyone.

"We have our health hazmat teams monitoring the air and water downstream, if you will," he added, "and right now we haven't found anything significant enough for us to take any further action."

Methane gas is extremely flammable, and can cause asphyxiation if it collects in a confined space. 

Residents can check with L.A. County Fire if they need to reenter their homes. Officials will accompany them with meters to make sure the area's not dangerous. At night, Jordan said, Hawthorne police officers are there to make sure no one enters the area. 

Jordan said it's unclear when the work would be completed.  "We've been here since Thursday, and nobody thought we'd be here this long.

"This is methane coming from deep under the ground," he added. "When you have product coming out of Mother Earth, you can't just run over and shut off a valve."

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