A gas leak has forced a suburban area just north of Los Angeles into crisis mode. The enormous natural gas leak in Aliso Canyon, Calif. has been sending approximately 62 million cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere since Oct. 23, 2015, when a well casing was inexplicably damaged.

The leak is the largest in U.S. history. In the months since October, it has become the most significant environmental disaster since the devastating BP oil spill in 2010.

Southern California Gas Company began drilling a relief well on Dec. 4 and initially estimated the leak would take three to four months to fix. As of Jan. 18, the relief work is ahead of schedule, and SoCal Gas now believes repairs will be completed by the end of February. Crews are tasked with drilling 8,500 feet underground to get to the base of the leaking pipe. Once they reach the leaking well, SoCal Gas has assured it will be permanently taken out of service.

Gas Leak Puts Local Residents at Risk

More than 1,000 residents of the nearby Porter Ranch and Northridge, Calif. towns have been forced to temporarily relocate until the gas leak has been repaired. In December, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education voted to temporarily move students at two schools to another location for the remainder of the 2015-16 school year.

At one point, SoCal Gas announced plans to introduce a new system that traps and burns off leaking gas while sending it through charcoal filters to help remove some of the smell. However, the company recently said it had to abandon the plan due to safety issues voiced by its engineering team.

In an interview with Los Angeles television station KABC-TV, Gas Safety Inc. President Bob Ackley noted that some readings had shown that methane levels in the area were 60 times greater than the normal breathing level, which he said is usually 1.95 parts per million. According to Ackley, one reading topped out at an overwhelming 127 parts per million.

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over the Porter Ranch area on Jan. 6. He also called for the state to create a plan to combat the massive amounts of methane that have leaked into the air since October and to craft a set of emergency rules for the state’s natural gas storage facility operators.

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