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Mystery Gas Smell Reported Near Formerly Leaky Porter Ranch Site

Complaints have rolled in near the site of the largest methane leak in US history

The four-month-long leak at a gas storage facility near Porter Ranch—which was the largest methane leak in US history and prompted thousands of families to flee—has been plugged since February, but the fallout continues. the latest chapter in the saga involves new complaints to the South Coast Air Quality Management District of familiar odors in the neighborhood.

AQMD received about 40 complaints yesterday from Porter Ranchers and people in the area around the gas storage site about the gas smells, reports the LA Times. The air quality authority did find "slightly elevated" methane levels at two monitors in the area, but only slightly elevated: "The readings were about 3 to 4 parts per million; a typical reading is 2 parts per million." (At its worst, the leak caused methane levels to rise up to 40 parts per million.)

Inspectors for the AQMD went so far as to go to the Aliso Canyon storage facility, site of the now-plugged leak, to check for odors, but couldn't find anything. No one's sure yet of where the gas is coming from, and the Southern California Gas Company says there's "no indication of any gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility." The air quality agency sent a mobile unit out to the Porter Ranch area to follow up on the complaints, but that data has yet to be analyzed, says KPCC.

People aren't just imagining things, though. Gas company officials did say that a week ago "odorant vapors were released" while work was being done at the storage facility. Odorants were blamed early on in the leak's history for causing the headaches, nosebleeds, and dizziness that residents felt, says the Times.

This isn't great timing for the Southern California Gas Company. They're hoping to have the facility partially up and running by the summer, thereby avoiding the forecasted blackouts that would come from having the huge and important gas storage site offline in peak season. (Critics say blackout warnings have been exaggerated to avoid a lengthy inspection period.)