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Lawsuit alleges Gas Co. pollutes aquifers

An underground storage facility is contaminating a water table near Marina del Rey, group charges. The utility rejects the claim.

January 12, 2007|Gary Polakovic | Times Staff Writer

A Bay Area environmental group filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that Southern California Gas Co. operations near Marina del Rey are polluting a local water table.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, charges that the utility is in violation of Proposition 65, which prohibits discharge or release of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.

Although the health risk at this time appears minimal, the lawsuit says the contamination affects three aquifers that could be used for drinking water as development occurs in the area.

"Our goal is to enforce California law and stop the gas company from releasing toxics into these aquifers," said Jim Wheaton, president of the Oakland-based Environmental Law Foundation, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"This storage facility is leaking like a sieve, threatening groundwater with oil field chemicals."

But Peter Hidalgo, spokesman for the Gas Co., said the lawsuit was without merit.

"The Gas Co. has yet to review the complaint," he said, "but we can assert strongly that our underground natural gas storage at Playa del Rey does not leak gas into local aquifers or elsewhere."

The Gas Co. stores about 125 billion cubic feet of natural gas underground at four sites in the Los Angeles Basin.

The one in dispute is near Jefferson and Lincoln boulevards near Marina del Rey.

The company injects the gas into a depleted oil field about 6,000 feet below the surface for storage and pumps it out during winter when demand is high.

The lawsuit alleges that this process causes petrochemicals, particularly benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene, to move up through aging well shafts, spread to aquifers beneath Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey and reach the surface.

gary.polakovic@latimes.com

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