Gas-Oil Mist Spews Over Neighborhood

Grassroots Coalition
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Los Angeles, CA 90066

Contact: Jeanette Vosburg
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Monday, April 7, 2003

Gas-Oil Mist Spews Over Neighborhood

By Lee Peterson and Jeremiah Marquez
Copyright 2003 The Daily Breeze

An early morning leak at a natural gas storage complex in Playa del Rey on Wednesday spewed a messy mist of crude oil over a local neighborhood, coating cars, streets and homes with brown residue.

A mechanical valve failure at the Southern California Gas Co. site triggered a 25-minute venting of gas mixed with some accumulated oil starting about 6:10 a.m.

Many residents in the upscale area were awakened by the loud spraying sound, which one said sounded like sandblasting outside her window.

Given the sounds and the heavy stench of petroleum, one woman feared it was a terrorist attack on a plane from nearby LAX.

When residents went outside, they found oily brown droplets all over walls, vehicles and prized rose bushes. At least a dozen homes on 79th Street, apparently the most affected area, were heavily sprayed.

The first thing Stefanie Glassberg noticed was the smell. But what ultimately concerned her most was not her lungs, but her house’s brand-new paint job.

“I just started bawling this morning. I was freaking out, but I’ve got to put the whole thing in perspective. I don’t know what else I can do,” Glassberg said. While residents found a sticky layer of oil pasting their property and a stench of natural gas and petroleum in the air, the Los Angeles City Fire Department reported there were no injuries from the incident.

The Gas Co. brought in a private hazardous waste cleanup firm to close off 79th Street and start working on the homes’ exteriors, and immediately offered auto detailing in the neighborhood.

Tracy Keith, who lives about 100 yards from the plant, said the noise jolted her and her husband out of sleep.

‘Covered with oil’

“When we came out to take a look, we found our whole terrace was covered with oil,” Keith said.

She’s worried about the possible long-term health effects on her children, and also some upcoming events.

“We’re supposed to have an Easter egg hunt in two weeks. But now I’m not so sure. I don’t want my 2 year old looking for Easter eggs in oil,” Keith said.

The storage facility at 8141 Gulana Ave. is used to put natural gas a mile deep into the earth, where it is left in a natural rock formation, said Gas Co. spokesman Peter Hidalgo.

The venting of the gas and oil was the result of a safety mechanism that was triggered when a compressor broke down. Crude oil, in the transport pipes to act as a lubricant, was mixed in with the leaking natural gas.

It probably looked like a geyser, said Hidalgo, who added that the crude oil spew went on for about seven minutes of the total leak.

Material was wafted by a breeze into a nearby neighborhood, speckling properties with brown oil, he said.

Hidalgo said the utility will do whatever is necessary to clean up the homes and cars. Vehicles can be brought to the facility on Gulana, or residents can take the cars to their own detailers, and then be reimbursed by the company.

First such incident

Hidalgo said this is the first such incident in the facility’s 60-year history.

John McClellan, who lives two blocks away on Berger Avenue, was outside when the leak started.

“All of a sudden, I see this black smoke shooting up into the air near the facility, maybe 100 or so feet into the air,” McClellan said. “I could smell an unusual type of petroleum odor and I could hear a loud gushing sound.”

Mary Houchin didn’t think about the natural gas storage facility when she heard the noise, her first thought was that it was a terrorist strike on an airplane.

Publish Date:April 3, 2003