Environmental and residential groups have been seeking such a declaration for weeks. Currently, SoCal (Southern California Gas Co.), a unit of Sempra Energy, is paying for work associated with trying to stop the leak, and to relocate thousands of residents who are experiencing health problems as a result of the leak. According to health officials, health problems including headaches, nosebleeds and nausea are believed to be caused by an odorant added to the gas. Those officials have said they don't believe there are long term effects from exposure.
According to SoCal Gas officials, work is ongoing to plug an underground well that is spewing gas from a large underground reservoir. However, SoCal Gas officials have said the leak may not be plugged until the end of March.
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The leak has caused a continuous flow of gases and fluids. Methane alone is leaking 100,000 pounds per hour, according to Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer. Along with that greenhouse gas is methyl mercaptans (odorants added to gas to aid in leak detection) and aromatic hydrocarbons. More concernedly, health officials have identified benzene and radon, both known carcinogens. Benzene is known to cause cancer.