Environment & Science

New methane leak detected at Aliso Canyon ‘very slight,’ SoCal Gas says

File: A sign marking the boundary of the Aliso Canyon storage facility is pictured in Porter Ranch on Jan. 6, 2016.
File: A sign marking the boundary of the Aliso Canyon storage facility is pictured in Porter Ranch on Jan. 6, 2016.
Jonathan Alcorn/AFP/Getty Images

A small amount of methane was seen leaking from the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility on Christmas Eve, but the release was “very slight” and was not expected to pose a public health risk, according to Southern California Gas Co.

Using infra-red cameras, crews observed a small release of methane — similar to the vapors of a single candle — from a 2-inch opening near a wellhead at the Aliso Canyon field, company spokesman Chris Gilbride said in a statement Monday.

The amount released was too small to measure, and there was no detectable odor at the site or anywhere else at the facility, Gilbride wrote. The recent rain storms likely triggered the release of methane trapped in the soil following last year’s months-long gas leak.

The Aliso Canyon field was the site of the nation’s largest uncontrolled natural gas leak, which started in late 2015 and lasted four months, triggered criminal charges against SoCal Gas, and prompted many local residents to report health problems, including nosebleeds, headaches, dizziness and nausea.

Gilbride said methane release levels in the community remain normal and that the company notified regulators, including the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the California Public Utilities Commission and the state Office of Emergency Service.

That wasn’t enough for some residents still shaken by the massive leak that displaced people from their homes in Porter Ranch and other neighborhoods for months.

Matt Pakucko, president and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch and a nine-year resident, faulted SoCal Gas for being slow to push out a community alert after it discovered the leak.

Pakucko told KPCC that residents received an alert at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, hours after the company said it initially discovered the leak at 7:45 a.m.

“Don’t send an Amber Alert out the day after the kid gets kidnapped, you know?” Pakucko said. “You got to be able to do something about it. Sending a thing, you know, eight hours later, we can’t do anything about it. Too late.”

Pakucko said residents have not received a follow-up notification since Saturday.

He said many people are sensitive to even the smallest gas leaks and experience symptoms ranging from burning lips and eyes to nosebleeds and difficulty breathing.

Pakucko said the latest release was more evidence that the facility should be permanently decommissioned.