A blowout at a natural gas well that gushed uncontrollably for 16 weeks and drove thousands of residents from their Los Angeles homes was plugged Thursday, a utility said. While the well still needs to be permanently sealed with cement and inspected by state regulators, the announcement by Southern California Gas Co. marked the first time the leak has been under control since it was reported Oct. 23. "We have temporarily controlled the natural gas flow from the leaking well and begun the process of sealing the well and permanently stopping the leak," Jimmie Cho, a SoCalGas senior vice president, said in a statement.
If the plug holds and all goes according to plan to seal the well, the upscale Porter Ranch community in the San Fernando Valley could begin to return to normalcy after schools were closed and about 6,000 families were uprooted as they complained of headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, and other symptoms as an intermittent stench wafted through the area. Public health officials blamed their woes on an odorant added to gas so it can be detected and have said they don't expect long-term health impacts. Some folks have said they don't want to move back, and many are concerned about what the incident has done to the value of their homes. The company is facing more than two dozen lawsuits, some of which seek class-action status. (Read more California stories.)