Environmental

SoCalGas sued for exposing firefighters to toxic chemicals

Aliso Canyon natural gas leak Courthouse News image SoCalGas sued for exposing firefighters to toxic chemicalsSouthern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) knowingly exposed Los Angeles firefighters to cancer-causing chemicals while they were assisting Porter Ranch residents following the October 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak, according to a 56-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The lawsuit, filed by more than two dozen Los Angeles firefighters, alleges that the Aliso Canyon gas leak – the largest methane leak in U.S. history – released toxic amounts of carcinogens like benzene and formaldehyde into a neighboring community. Residents in the area became sick and many opted to evacuate.

Firefighters who responded to the scene say they suffered from symptoms like severe headaches, nosebleeds, skin rashes, dizziness and breathing difficulties from exposure to the toxic gases. Some have been diagnosed with cancer.

The incident occurred Oct. 23, 2015, when an underground natural storage well ruptured, sending an invisible plume of fumes into the environment. At the time, SoCalGas assured the public and firefighters that there was no immediate risk from exposure to the gas, so firefighters didn’t think it was necessary to wear protective gear during the four months they worked in the area.

Researchers later determined that the well released about 97,100 tons of methane into the environment, along with other toxic chemicals like benzene, which has been linked to blood cancers like acute myeloid leukemia.

“SoCalGas chose to lie to us, mislead us and put us in harm’s way without giving us the chance to warn others,” said Daniel Mehterian, a retired firefighter who is among the 29 suing the utility. “They robbed us of the chance to help save lives further, and instead chose to hide the truth and cover their own butts.”

Source: LA Times