Since October, an underground natural gas storage well in Aliso Canyon, California has been belching up thousands of pounds of methane into the atmosphere every hour while the Southern California Gas Company desperately scrambled to close up the leaky pipe casing. Last week, it seemed the leak had finally been plugged, and today SoCal Gas confirmed that the leak has been permanently sealed.
The announcement comes after a series of independent laboratory tests meant to ensure that absolutely no natural gas was escaping from the well. The utility managed to close up the leak by intercepting the damaged pipe with a newly-drilled relief well and filling the area with cement. The tests measured both the emissions coming from the site and the strength of the cement plug, to ensure the fix would hold up over time.
Now, displaced residents from nearby LA neighborhoods will wait an additional eight days before they can return to their homes. The massive scale of the leak forced more than 2,200 households to leave the area after complaining of headaches, nosebleeds, and nausea. Naturally, many residents say they won’t feel safe returning to the area until they see the results of air pollution tests confirming that there are no lingering effects from the leak.
All told, the cost of pipeline repair and relocating nearby residents has cost SoCal Gas about $300 million. However, it remains to be seen if the state actually holds anyone from the utility responsible for the environmental disaster — so far the only people who’ve been arrested are activists protesting the company’s use of vulnerable gas storage facilities.