Crack in Oil Well Pipe Leads to Evacuation

A crack in the casing of a pipe carrying methane gas from a nearby oil drilling site led to the evacuation of seven Torrance homes and two complexes in Redondo Beach on Tuesday, officials said.

"The pressure on the well had increased due to a crack in the piping underground," said Battalion Chief Ken Hall of the Torrance Fire Department.

Officials said they were concerned that the pressure would cause old valves on the wellhead to erupt.

"There was a slight chance of a valve failing at the surface, and I didn't want to take that chance," said Charles Champion, president of Tower Petroleum, the oil company that operates the well.

The underground pipe was repaired by firefighters and company workers last week when it first ruptured Wednesday. Since then, the pipe casing has expanded with increased pressure and an oil well crew from Texas has been brought in to work on the pipe.

"They're trying to bleed that pressure off to a site where they can vent it," Hall said.

Officials said they decided to evacuate all homes within a 100-foot radius of the well Tuesday "merely as a precautionary measure."

Once the pressure is released, experts plan to fill the well with cement, seal it off and abandon it, he said.

Residents of Tomlee Avenue are staying in hotels paid for by Tower Petroleum Corp. but are expected to be back in their homes by this afternoon, Champion said.

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