Too Close for Comfort: Accidental Activist of the Aliso Canyon Gas Blowout
November 1, 2021
I call myself an accidental activist.
My community of Porter Ranch and Granada Hills and I lived through the largest gas blowout in U.S. history that erupted on Oct. 23, 2015.
I live just down the road from the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility.
Over 109,000+ metric tons of methane plus a lethal cocktail of poly toxin pollutants, including cancer-causing benzene, mercaptan, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and crude oil came spewing into my community and drifted on the winds throughout the entire San Fernando Valley.
We’ve been fighting hard since 2015 to shut down the Aliso Canyon facility.
After the blowout, I didn’t know what was happening with my body. My hair was falling out, my stomach was hard and distended, I was nauseous all the time, my body ached down to my bones, I had these weird skin rashes, heart palpitations, suffered frequent bloody noses, cough and a very sore throat. I couldn’t remember things and was always in a mental fog.
I was on my couch or in my bed most of the time. I would count how many steps it would take to get wherever I wanted to go in my home.
I ended up in therapy because I felt like I was going crazy.
One day, as I was driving to my therapist’s office, I was listening to public radio in the car. They were talking about the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak and I thought, “That sounds so familiar.”
I realized Aliso Canyon was the park just up the block from my home – the place I frequently walked my dog in. I called the gas company and they asked me how I was doing? I said I was horrible and my dog died.
So the gas company said I had to evacuate immediately!
My family and I evacuated for seven months but when I returned home, so did my symptoms and they haven’t gone away.
What does it feel like to live through a gas blowout?
In the beginning, before you know what is happening, you are questioning your body and your mind – everything hurts.
Then, when you find out it’s a gas blowout, it doesn’t really compute.
Dizziness, nausea, nose bleeds and heart palpitations are gas related? Sometimes I still question myself and ask myself, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you leave the house?”
I don’t garden anymore, don’t swim, don’t lie in the sun or even in the shade. I don’t take my coffee and breakfast outside or have a sandwich out on the deck. I’m finding my life becoming smaller and smaller.
You start having fears for the day. You curse yourself, tell yourself to get up, or to think or to not be so depressed. And sometimes through sheer force of will, you get yourself up but, mostly you don’t. You lose one day and before you know it, a week, a month has gone by and you are so far behind in everything you want to do in your life.
I did fight for the problem to be fixed!
I talked to my councilman and local authorities. When that wasn’t fruitful, I went to many others and talked to neighborhood councils, senators and congress members. I went to Sacramento multiple times to talk to our elected officials and helped organize many rallies and protests. I went to so many Air Quality Management District workshops, the Department of Public Health meetings, L.A. Board of Supervisors, California Public Utilities Commission hearings.
And then this Nov.4, the California PUC wants to discuss actually increasing the amount of gas stored there!
In spite of the Los Angeles City Council and the LA County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous vote and the request of the Governor to expedite and close Aliso Canyon, nothing has happened!
When the Aliso Canyon blowout occurred, three companies immediately stepped up to help with battery storage and between that and the 31 mitigation measures, the Aliso Canyon facility was not used for almost two years. There are even more possibilities for cutting down the need for methane gas with every new solar panel that is installed.
Fighting for clean air is the only thing that got me out of the house and continues to do so today. I still smell gas many days and I still have symptoms, such as headaches and nausea. At 62 years of age, I am forced to leave my home of many years to seek someplace healthier to live. I can no longer go on living like this. I’ve said this for years but it is truly difficult to actually make this happen. I’m overwhelmed, nervous, scared to start anew. Where am I going to go? My one big desire is somewhere with trees — a lot of trees.