Who’s Afraid of a Little Gas Leak in LA?

Of General Concern | Claudia Rojas | February 6, 2016

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We know about the monster under the bed, and how parents tell kids “there’s no such thing.” The invisible is not supposed to scare, but when the invisible is a gas that is making the atmosphere insufferable, then it’s time to scream.

It’s time to make noise because Los Angeles, CA is in an environmental crisis, big time.

Imagine this: a natural gas providing building in the Aliso Canyon run by the Southern California Gas (SoCal Gas) Company starts leaking gas.

LA_Gas_leak_2
(Gus Ruelas / CBC News)

No one can see it but there’s a scent of rotten eggs (an added odorant). Employees discover there’s a gas leak and think, we can fix this.

This was the case on October 23, 2015.

Now look at the reality: February 2016 and people have moved to hotels because home means red eyes, hard breathing, and long-term hazardous health issues. In these past three months, the EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) has kept a real-time track of the metric tons of methane released into the LA atmosphere, which is currently over 93,000 metric tons. The real-time methane counter is available at the end of this post. Be warned: the numbers give chills.

But how bad is methane gas?

Methane is an invisible and odorless chemical. It’s a compound formed from carbon and hydrogen known as CH4.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane is produced both naturally and through humans. In wetlands, methane is produced in high quantities, and in a smaller proportions, in oceans and volcanoes. Humans are responsible for the release of greater methane levels through natural gas and petroleum systems, the raising of domestic livestock, and waste from buildings. Methane has a lifetime of 12 years in the atmosphere, which is awfully long for a gas that can absorb radiation that pollutes air quality.

“Now look at the reality: February 2016 and people have moved to hotels because home means red eyes, hard breathing, and long-term hazardous health issues.”

LA_Gas_Leak_1Research has shown methane leaks in natural gas facilities are actually common. The leaks turn into a concern when they aren’t controlled. When the leak was first discovered, the SoCal Gas Company had to relocate households and drill a relief well underground. Their efforts weren’t strong enough to immediately stop the methane leak.

SoCal Gas plans to complete the relief well within a week; this coming after 4,500 families in the area relocated.

During the course of the crisis, SoCal Gas has kept residents updated through AlisoUpdates.com.

While the East Coast is miles away from CA, the gas leak disaster is an encouragement to keep hugging trees because the environment needs us right now.

The EDF translates the methane metric tons released into CO2 metric tons, gallons of gas burned, and even dollars wasted:

Featured Image: “Aliso Canyon gas leak site” by Scott L under CC BY-SA 2.0