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In the midst of one of the worst natural gas leaks in U.S. history, the Southern California Gas Co. said it will be inspecting 18 older wells at the Aliso Canyon storage facility to determine whether they are safe or they should take them out of service.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, had said earlier in the day that Gov. Jerry Brown’s office had notified him of SoCalGas’ commitment to shut down these 1950s-era wells.

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However, a SoCalGas official said it is “not correct that SoCalGas has committed to permanently shutting down the 18 wells in question.”

Instead, these older wells, which SoCalGas identified as a top priority, will temporarily end up plugged so they can undergo inspections, said Kristine Lloyd, a SoCalGas spokeswoman.

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“Once an inspection is completed, an assessment will be made on future course of actions, including a determination if the well is safe to put back into service,” she said.

Last week, a South Coast Air Quality Management District panel ordered the leaking well, which dates back to 1953 and is one of 115 gas wells at the site, to permanently shut down.

The inspections of the wells will end up conducted by SoCalGas and their contractors, with the results submitted to the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, which is investigating the leak and overseeing the company’s efforts to plug it, Lloyd said. She said she did not have any further information about this.

“Further actions on these and other wells in this facility will be determined after a comprehensive well-by-well review by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has been completed,” said Don Drysdale of the California Department of Conservation, which includes the oil and gas division.

“Some of these wells may go back into service at some point, some may be permanently plugged and taken out of service,” he said.

The 18 wells that date back to the 1950s at the Aliso Canyon facility, a depleted oil field, were for pulling oil out of the ground not for the purpose of injecting or withdrawing natural gas, Sherman said.

Not only are the well casings and the pipes inside of these vintage wells more than 60 years old, but at least some lack deep subsurface safety valves that would be costly to replace, Sherman said. Thus it “probably makes more sense to cap these wells than to retrofit them to be safer.”

Since the 8,000-foot-deep well known as SS-25 sprung a leak on Oct. 23, it has drawn nearly 2,000 complaints from nearby residents, many of whom have experienced headaches, dizziness, vomiting, nosebleeds and other symptoms public health officials blame on odor detection agents in the gas.

More than 3,000 households in the Porter Ranch area relocated along with two elementary schools at gas company expense, with nearly 2,000 households on a waiting list. Residents have complained they can smell the gaseous odors from Simi Valley in Ventura County to Granada Hills.

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