Most of the time, my four-year old son’s asthma is controlled with the use of an inhaler twice a day. Recently, he’s been coughing and coughing non-stop, reminding me of those awful days before his asthma was diagnosed. The pediatrician blamed El Nino for the flare up – but my son’s coughing started well before the rains. I blame the Aliso Canyon gas leak, and I’m angry by the lack of admission that the plume is wafting beyond the seemingly arbitrary invisible five-mile radius set by SoCal Gas. If we can smell it at our house 8 miles away, it’s drifting — and I’m sure it’s harming my asthmatic kid’s lungs. To calm his lungs after the latest episode, he had to double up on steroid treatment for the better part of a week and take two inhalers numerous times per day. This treatment lasted almost a month. Thankfully, the coughing has subsided, but I fear his asthma could flare up at any moment, as the leak continues to spew methane, benzene and other chemicals into the air.
Since December, almost 2,000 families have been relocated, and an equal number of students have been shifted to other schools, with no plan to return to their homes, schools and lives.
I work in Chatsworth, within the five-mile radius of the leak. I experience nausea and headaches at work on a daily basis. Since there is an absolute lack of information being shared with my employer by SoCalGas, I don’t have an avenue to report these effects at work.
While the immediate health concerns of residents at “ground zero” are, thankfully, starting to be addressed through the relocation program, the lack of information about potential effects outside Porter Ranch, and the seemingly arbitrary five-mile impact zone set by SoCalGas, is infuriating. Several recent graphic reports show that gas is spreading around the San Fernando Valley.
Just this week, SoCalGas announced it would provide air filters for all schools within the five-mile zone, but what about the rest of the Valley eight miles away from the gas leak, outside the arbitrary five-mile zone. My kids have asked me what “the stinky smell” is.
At our home, we smell gas.
USC researchers are studying potential long-term health effects of the leak. Meanwhile, I have questions:
- Why does SoCal gas still contend that long-term effects are not an issue, especially for vulnerable members of the population like my son?
- How was the five-mile impact radius determined?
- Why didn’t anyone replace the safety valves at the facility when they were first inexplicably removed in the late 1970s?
- Why were regular inspections not conducted by regulatory agencies to ensure that proper safety mechanisms were in place?
- And most importantly, why are gas and oil companies allowed to run large-scale deep underground operations in heavily populated areas without a viable plan in place for stopping leaks and cleaning up the mess once leaks occur?
In addition to the costs to human health, make no mistake; this leak is also a complete environmental and climate disaster. It is spewing out so much methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide, it’s like we’ve added nearly half a million new cars to LA’s roads.
California has made great strides in the last few years in cutting harmful greenhouse gases. It saddens me that this is getting erased by this polluting gas leak — with no end in sight.
Moms across the country should be outraged that oil and gas industry profits are placed before our children’s health. To protect our families, we need immediate testing for toxic levels in schools all over the San Fernando Valley, a permanent shut down of this polluting facility and the strongest methane rules possible.
JOIN MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE
Affected by the SoCalGas leak? According to SoCalGas, those inside a five mile radius of the gas leak may be eligible for assistance, and those outside the five mile radius are eligible for help on a case by case basis. To apply for help, go to https://www.alisoupdates.com/need-assistance, call 818-435-7707 between 10 and 8 on weekdays and 10 and 6 on weekends or visit SoCal Gas’s Community Resource Center at the Porter Ranch Town Center at 19731 Rinaldi St. during the same hours. You can contact Senator Boxer’s office at 213-894-5000, Senator Feinstein’s office at 310-914-7300 and Congressman Brad Sherman’s office at (818) 501-9200.