The temporary halt to the leak is a massive first step to getting it under control permanently. To stop it, a relief well reached the base of the leaking well and officials are now pumping in "heavy fluids to temporarily control the flow of gas out of the leaking well." They must now fill it with cement to stop it permanently, and that may still take another few days.
"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, senior vice president of gas operations and system integrity, said in a statement.
The massive gas leak was spewing some 110,000 pounds of highly flammable and toxic methane gas per hour from a cold-war-era storage facility. Currently 1,700 homes had been evacuated. The company had previously estimated that they will not be able to stop the leak until “late February or late March."
Once the leak is completely stopped, evacuated residents who had been temporarily relocated to leased houses and hotel rooms will have seven nights to move back to their homes, according to the terms of an agreement between the gas company and the Los Angeles city attorney's office. Democratic Representative Brad Sherman told the LA Times however, that he wants to try to get the 7-day window extended until the California Air Resources Board certifies that the air surrounding the Aliso Canyon field is free of natural gas.
One of the residents who was evacuated, Regina Maleki, told Sputnik News that she still has lingering concerns.
“At first they said people had 48 hours, but that was before they had evacuated thousands of residents and schools. People put up a fight, now they are saying we have eight days and seven nights, but that still doesn’t address the gas that is still lingering in the air and in people’s homes,” Maleki explained. “There are other concerns. I have heard reports that 15 other wells might also be leaking. They would not confirm or deny this. Plus, state regulators, including AQMD, are still not requiring proper safety valves to be installed to prevent this from happening again. Many residents want the whole thing shut down.”
“It’s worth noting that the type of gas involved in this leak is part of what makes it so sinister. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate change impact,” Melissa Cronin reported for Motherboard in December.There have been over 20 lawsuits filed over the leak, along with civil claims, including for wrongful death.