LOS ANGELES, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The natural gas leak that flowed for more than three months and sickened hundreds of residents near Los Angeles has been at least temporarily capped, gas company officials said Thursday.
The Southern California Gas Co. said a relief well has reached the base of the leaking well and heavy fluids are now being pumped into the leaking well to control the flow. The stop-gap measure could permanently stop the leak, but officials said cement will still be poured into the well over the next several days to ensure a permanent stop to the leak.
"We have temporarily controlled the natural gas flow from the leaking well and begun the process of sealing the well and permanently stopping the leak," Jimmie Cho, senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity, said in a statement released by the gas company.
Residents of Porter Ranch, a neighborhood north of Los Angeles, complained of headaches, nausea, and nosebleeds, among other symptoms believed to be related to the inhalation of natural gas. since the leak began. Consequently, thousands of residents have been moved. Public health officials say there shouldn't be any long-term health problems to residents once the leak is fixed.
The leak was the largest of any natural gas storage facility west of the Mississippi River and released two million tons of methane in the air, significantly contributing to climate change, since methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
State and local officials are investigating the three-month old leak. SoCalGas has been hammered with lawsuits from residents, the city and local regulators.