California Gas Leak – State of Emergency

The gas leak in southern California has emit the equivalent of 700 million gallons of gasoline/carbon/methane into the atmosphere since October – nearly 3 months ago. The average car uses about 580 gallons of gas per year. In a 3 month period that would equate to about 165 gallons. The 700 million would thus equate to an additional 4,242,400 cars worth of carbon emissions. That would be the equivalent of 112% of the entire population (including children) of LA which stands at roughly 3.8 million!

And Governor Jerry Brown, a climate activist, is just now declaring a state of emergency and wants it fixed? What about 3 months ago! What about last month when the EDF showed aerial photos of the damage? What amount over the last six to eight weeks since residents began reporting illnesses governor? How much pollution has occurred as a direct result? I’ll bet it’s a lot more than those VW’s that are subject to enormous fines and lawsuits.

The proposal to fix the leak is complicated. It involves an attempt to mask the odors that have been released by attempting to vaporize them in a contained flammable operation, and to disperse the methane that hovers in the atmosphere, and ultimately to clamp the leak by drilling down over 8000 feet.

The utility company, SoCal Gas, claims that the odor in the methane is a result of an additive. That additive is used purposefully to help detect gas leaks. It is called Mercaptan. According to OSHA, at very high concentrations it is extremely toxic and affects the central nervous system. In November 2014, at a DuPont facility in Texas, the accidental death of 4 people and the hospitalization of a fifth was a direct result of exposure to Mercaptan.

According to the Utility company, exposure to this additive is harmless. But that would not be exactly truthful:

Ocular exposures:

Methyl mercaptan is an eye and mucous membrane irritant.  It may cause moderate conjunctivitis and diplopia.

Dermal exposures:

Exposure may result in redness, irritation and swelling.  Frostbite injury can occur from dermal exposure to liquid methyl mercaptan. 

Inhalation exposures:

Symptoms may include fever, cough, dyspnea, tightness and burning in the chest, dizziness, headache, loss of sense of smell, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Inhalation may cause CNS depression, respiratory irritation, respiratory paralysis, pulmonary edema, tremors and seizures. It may also cause liver and kidney damage, tachycardia and hypertension Methemoglobinemia and severe hemolytic anemia with hematuria and protenuria have been reported in a patient with G-6-PD deficiency.

Studies on exposure to Mercaptan have all been limited to a very small time frame – 4 minutes to one hour. Prolonged exposure, as in 3 months and counting, has not been assessed. The symptoms presented above were all attributable to this much smaller exposure period.

When all the facts are not offered in an attempt to dispel fear, there is a chance that people will not seek the help they need which could lead to even greater physical distress. Of the 6500 residents that have asked for assistance in relocating until this toxic plume is contained, only 2200 have been afforded that protection. The mere fact that this event is now described as a state of emergency indicates the severity and the longer the residents are subjected to the toxicity, the more harm that can occur.

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