Similar Symptoms Seen in People and Pets in Massive Natural Gas Disaster

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Matt Pakucko and his cats. The family moved to a hotel in Burbank after their cats began vomiting and experiencing nose bleeds. (Picture by Danny Ailo/Screengrab: LA Weekly)

Bloody noses and persistent coughs and vomiting are among the awful symptoms shared by people and pets who live inside an expanding natural gas disaster zone in the City of Los Angeles. “This gas, it’s an invisible tsunami,” said Porter Ranch resident and cat owner Matt Pakucko, whose cat, Chomper, has been suffering from nose bleeds that started one week after the massive leak was detected on October 23.

Inside Climate News published this data visualization of the Aliso Canyon Plume. The readings for this visualization were taken on Jan. 12, 2016. Courtesy of Home Energy Efficiency Team and Google Earth.

Forty percent of the people who live in the affluent community of Porter Ranch have pets, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.The only time Chomper’s nose bleeds stopped was when the family spent several weeks at a hotel in Burbank, Pakucko said. “The first day back, he was vomiting again,” he told Fox News. And his nose bleed resumed “within hours.” The gases being released include mercaptan, an odorant that smells like rotten cabbage and is a known respiratory irritant. Mercaptan is added to odorless methane to alert people to the presence of flammable gas. Headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, nose bleeds, sore throats and rashes are all health problems being reported by people in the plume, the result of largest recorded leak of natural gas from an uncapped well.

Fox News spoke to veterinarian David Smith of Northridge who has seen “lots of vomiting” among pets since the massive gas leak began. (Screengrab: Fox News)

The well that failed is 62 years old and is owned by Southern California Gas Co. It lacked a critical safety valve that would have stopped the leak, and had not been inspected since 1976, according a report in LA Weekly. The well is spewing a staggering 1,200 metric tons of raw natural gas a day from a gaping hole in the ground. “This is the single biggest environmental disaster — air disaster — in my entire career that I have ever worked on,” said Erin Brokovich, who attended a recent public hearing. “We call this the BP oil spill on land.” Brokovich compared the ongoing eruption to a volcano. Numerous attempts were made to plug the well, but failed.

Veterinarians have seen a dramatic rise in the number of patients since the eight-mile long plume began spreading southward over the San Fernando Valley. “There’s been a lot of sick pets and we think it’s related to the gas leak,” David Smith of the Northridge Veterinary Center told Fox News. Smith has seen “lots of vomiting,” and breathing problems, including a Bulldog who went into respiratory arrest and almost died. There’s not much people can do to protect themselves or their animals. Smith advises his clients who are affected to “get out.”

Rocco is one of many dogs whose owners are reporting health problems such as coughing, irritated eyes and respiratory distress. (Screengrab: Fox News)

State health officials insist that most of the gas is dissipating and residents will not suffer long term health risks, but acknowledge that mercaptan may be the cause of widespread health problems. Unlike methane, which rises into the atmosphere and disperses, mercaptan is heavier than air and lingers close to the ground, which could put dogs and cats at risk.

Porter Ranch resident Amy Masliah owns a Labrador mix named Clyde, who is coughing. Masliah told the Los Angeles Times that she blames the death of Clyde’s sister, Bonnie, on her exposure to methane and benzene in the air. The 7-year-old dog died from a lung tumor found seven weeks ago, she said. “She died a very horrible, painful death,” Masliah told the Los Angeles Times. “She couldn’t breathe. We had to put her to sleep.”

On January 6, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. Two schools were closed and more than 4,500 residents have evacuated. More want to leave but cannot. “I don’t really have a choice. I’ve got bills to pay,” said one woman who works in nearby Northridge. Porter Ranch is located next to a SoCalGas facility in Aliso Canyon that includes 115 wells and a massive underground gas storage reservoir, the second largest in the country, to which the leaking well is connected.

The biggest challenge for many pet owners is finding apartments that will accept both them and their animals. One woman named Sadie who came to Smith’s office with her dog, Rocco, told Fox News that she had searched long and hard before finding a rental unit that would let her take Rocco with her. SoCalGas is reportedly paying rent for evacuees, but many complain of long waiting lists and calls that are never returned. For more information and videos, visit the Save Porter Ranch Facebook page.

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