Environment & Science

Thanksgiving smell takes on a whole new meaning in Porter Ranch

Ruben Samson at his home in Porter Ranch, which he's owned since 1991. Now he's worried the natural gas leak will cause his home to lose value.
Ruben Samson at his home in Porter Ranch, which he's owned since 1991. Now he's worried the natural gas leak will cause his home to lose value.
Mary Plummer/KPCC
Ruben Samson at his home in Porter Ranch, which he's owned since 1991. Now he's worried the natural gas leak will cause his home to lose value.
The gate to the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility in Porter Ranch, a neighborhood northwest of Los Angeles. A leak in one of the natural gas storage wells was discovered in late October.
Mary Plummer/KPCC
Ruben Samson at his home in Porter Ranch, which he's owned since 1991. Now he's worried the natural gas leak will cause his home to lose value.
A sign posted outside a gated community call box in Porter Ranch warning of the gas leak problems.
Mary Plummer/KPCC


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Longtime Porter Ranch resident Ruben Samson said this is a Thanksgiving like no other.

For 15 years, he's hosted Thanksgiving dinner at his home. But today, he might have to cancel.

"I've been smelling it everywhere," he said. Rotten eggs.

The reason: a natural gas leak. A natural gas leak discovered on October 23 in a storage well in Aliso Canyon has been seeping into the homes and parks in and around the gated community where Samson lives.

"This is the first year that I'm not really excited," he said.

More than 60 homes have been relocated due to the smell, upon orders of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Nearly 200 more families have requested relocation, but have yet to be moved.

SoCalGas officials say the methane levels do not present a health risk. But residents have complained about headaches, dizziness, bloody noses and other ailments. 

Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage site in the Western U.S., according to Tim O'Connor, a senior attorney at the Environment Defense Fund. He said the smell residents are experiencing is mercaptan, a compound utilities add to the typically odorless gas for safety.

Samson and his family relocated to the Sheraton in Universal City about a week ago.

But he says he wants to be in his home, especially for the holiday, and he's been making frequent trips back and forth. The hotel is cramped compared to his 2,400 sq. foot house.

So Thursday morning, he was back home, a 20 lb. turkey defrosting on his kitchen counter.

Should he cook it? The air was fresh in the morning, but he worried a shift in winds might send the gas over as his guests arrived for dinner. 

"It's very sad," he said. "Right now, the spirit of Thanksgiving, I haven't really feel it."