A dramatic time-lapse video shot by the California Air Resources Board shows the plume of gas from the damaged Aliso Canyon well disappear over seven minutes as crews gained control of the leak. The footage was taken shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday.
The agency started shooting the video a few hours before the leak was controlled, said board spokesman Dave Clegern.
With the leak now plugged, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is asking state and federal regulatory agencies to test the air in the Porter Ranch area to verify that it is safe for residents to return to their homes from temporary lodging.
After meeting with a handful of residents for about 30 minutes at the Shepherd of the Hills Church, Boxer said independent testing is needed because the community does not trust Southern California Gas Co. and the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to certify that the leak has stopped.
She said her office is sending her recommendation to the gas company, the state oil resources division, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“Before these families return home, they will need to know with certainty, with certainty, that the air will be safe to breathe and their homes will be safe to occupy,” Boxer said.
Boxer's visit to the area came a day after gas company officials said they had gained control of well SS 25 by injecting fluids into it via a relief well it drilled to intercept the damaged one.
Workers are expected to begin inserting cement into the well in the coming days to seal it permanently.
Once that is done, inspectors with the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources will determine if the leak is officially stopped. At that time, customers who are temporarily living in hotels will have eight days to return home. Anyone living in a house or apartment with a lease will be allowed to finish out the agreement.
Boxer said that process is insufficient because the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources “does not have a reputation up until to this point that is good enough.”
Representatives of the gas company and the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources were not immediately available to comment.
Officials with AQMD have been conducting air monitoring and analysis in the community for months with three monitoring stations and a vehicle with a real-time methane monitor. Those results are posted on the district’s website.
Air officials are developing a post-leak monitoring plan, a district spokesman said.
The massive gas leak, which was reported Oct. 23, caused thousands of families in Porter Ranch and surrounding communities to temporarily relocate. Customers who remained in their homes were provided with air purifiers. Odorants added to the methane left many residents with headaches, dizziness and nausea.
The leak also left many businesses struggling. The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Friday that it would offer low-interest federal loans to small businesses affected by leak.
“These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact,” said Victor Parker, the administration's Los Angeles district director.
“Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” Parker said.