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Schools within 5 miles of Aliso Canyon leak will get air purifiers

Southern California Gas Co. is providing air purifiers to schools within a 5-mile radius of its leaking natural gas storage well in Aliso Canyon, officials said Wednesday.

The largest number of devices, 210, is going to the largest campus in the area, Granada Hills Charter High School.

“These purifiers will be in every classroom and office,” according to a statement from the public relations firm Sitrick and Co., which is representing the utility.

The school requested the purifiers even though the telltale odor has not reached the campus, according to administrators. The gas company also is providing active carbon filters that will be installed in all heating and air conditioning units.

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“Although the school has not received any notice of increased or unsafe levels of methane or other compounds in the area of the school, we have chosen to work with SoCal Gas to procure and install the purifiers and filters at the gas company’s expense in order to do all that we can to ensure the safety of our campus,” school officials said in a statement.

The school also has arranged for independent air sampling, which it expects the utility to pay for, said Marilyn Koziatek, the school’s community outreach coordinator.

Since early December, the utility has been drilling a relief well to intercept gas from the damaged one and seal it. The leaking well continues to spew methane, but at a decreased rate, dropping to 18,400 kilograms per hour as of last week.

At its peak in November, the well released 58,000 kilograms of methane. The leak was detected Oct. 23.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is considered harmless to people in the open air, although it can pose problems if it accumulates in enclosed areas, including the risk of explosion. Mercaptan is added to natural gas, which is odorless, to make leaks noticeable.

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Many residents say the gas or the noxious-smelling mercaptan, or trace elements of other airborne agents, have been making them sick.

The leak has displaced thousands of Porter Ranch residents, many of whom have complained of headaches, nausea, respiratory problems and other health maladies.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has already relocated the two schools most affected by the fumes. Eighteen additional schools are affected by the expanded range of concern.

Twitter: @howardblume 

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