A gas well at the Aliso Canyon facility. Courtesy Southern California Gas

An L.A. City Council committee will consider Tuesday if the city should examine more closely the health of the people who live near the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility and the quality of their water following the release of an independent report that raised questions about both.

City Councilman Mitchell Englander, who represents the Porter Ranch area, which was severely affected by a massive leak in 2015 and 2016, introduced a motion in October that would direct the Department of Water and Power to report on any and all testing conducted before, during and after the leak, and to report on lithium levels in the water supply in areas around the leak.

The motion will be considered by the Energy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee. It was drafted in response to a study released in October by Dr. Jeffrey Nordella, who conducted urine and hair samples on 106 Porter Ranch residents and also tested the water supply in some homes.

Nordella reported that urine samples showed elevated levels of styrene and ethylbenzene, while hair samples revealed statistically significant higher levels of uranium and lithium compared to averages in the rest of California as well as the United States.

The report also found lithium was detected in the water of homes with LADWP water supply while homes with non-LADWP water had no detectable levels of lithium.

In response to Nordella’s report, the LADWP said: ”Lithium is a naturally occurring earth metal found in soil, rocks, dusts, surface water, groundwater, and seawater. It is not regulated by the U.S. (Environmental Protection Agency) in drinking water and there is no public health goal, which would be a first step in acknowledging a potential health affect and setting a regulatory limit. Because of this, lithium is not routinely tested for by LADWP. The trace levels cited as detected in the study would be expected to be found in most water supplies in the United States and are not harmful. There is no cause for the public to be concerned or alarmed by the finding cited in the report.”

The Aliso Canyon gas leak, which was discovered in October 2015 and continued emanating methane until February 2016, poured an estimated 109,000 tons of methane into the air and forced an estimated 15,000 Porter Ranch area residents to temporarily relocate.

Limited operations resumed at the facility in late July with the blessing of state regulators. Efforts by Los Angeles County officials to block the resumed operations failed in court.

—City News Service

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