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Southern California Gas Co. must take immediate steps to contain a massive natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, permanently shut down the damaged well, establish a leak detection system and conduct an independent health study, according to a new abatement regulators approved Saturday.

Following a six-hour public meeting in Woodland Hills, the Hearing Board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) voted 4-1 to approve the order.

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“As a result of this order, SoCalGas must take immediate steps to minimize air pollution and odors from its leaking well and stop the leak as quickly as possible,” said Barry Wallerstein, SCAQMD’s executive officer. “It also will require the utility to thoroughly inspect all other wells at its Aliso Canyon storage facility to help prevent another major leak in the future.”

Once the leak stops and the well shuts down, SoCal Gas must improve air quality monitoring in the San Fernando Valley community and complete a study on the potential health effects of well emissions on residents in the Porter Ranch area.

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The company must also establish a comprehensive leak detection program for all other wells in the Aliso Canyon facility to help prevent future leaks.

The damaged well at SoCal Gas’ Aliso Canyon storage facility has been releasing environmentally damaging natural gas since Oct. 23. The company has tried several times to plug the well, but those efforts were unsuccessful. Since Dec. 4, the utility has been drilling a relief well to intercept the damaged one, one of 115 wells on the reservoir.

Sealing the well — then taking it permanently out of service — is a long-term measure. That work should wrap up by late February, or possibly earlier, according to a timeline released this week.

The gas leak has displaced thousands of people in the Porter Ranch neighborhood. Many have complained of headaches, nausea, respiratory problems and other health issues.

Complaints about the fumes from the leak in the former oil field, which stores gas for distribution to nearly 22 million customers in the L.A. Basin, have drawn national attention.

Health officials have said the gas is not harmful, but the chemicals added to help communities detect such leaks can cause short-term ailments.

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