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Hawthorne well: Residents displaced by methane leak may go home soon

September 24, 2013|By Angel Jennings | This post has been corrected. See notes below for details.
  • Workers from Boots and Coots International, a well blowout specialist, attempt to cap a well that was spewing methane gas and water in Hawthorne on Sept. 16.
Workers from Boots and Coots International, a well blowout specialist,… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

This post has been corrected. See note below.

The dozens of families displaced in Hawthorne as crews worked to cap a well that was spewing a mixture of water and flammable gas might be able to return to their homes Tuesday, officials said.

Thirty-seven families living in the immediate vicinity of the well were evacuated Sept. 12 as a precaution. They have been living in hotels and were not told when they would be allowed to return to their homes.

But fire officials said crews were expected to perform pressure tests on the well cap Tuesday. If the cap holds up, residents will be able to move back into their homes, said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Scott Miller.

Last Wednesday, crews were finally able to stop the methane from seeping out of a retired water well after several failed attempts. The initial plan was to fashion a cement cap over the well, but because of the large quantity of gas, officials decided to permanently affix gas-monitoring equipment to safeguard residents, said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Tony Akins.

"Once complete, the project plan will provide complete control of the well, eliminate concern of surface contamination and allow residents to return home safely," Patrick Scanlon, vice president of Golden State Water Co., said in a news release.

Earlier this month, crews discovered an unexpected flow of water as they tried to plug the retired well. Then tests revealed that methane gas had mixed with the well water.  

Golden State Water Co. hired the capping company Boots & Coots International Well Control, which used high-pressure water to stem the flow out of the well, but the methane continued to leak. Next, they injected alternating rounds of a "gel-like slug" and water to plug the leakage, said Akins. That briefly stopped the methane gas, but it was again detected in follow-up tests.

Officials believe they now have the leak under control, Akins said. Crews plan to attach monitoring equipment and a blowout preventer on the well as a precaution.

Methane gas can be deadly if inhaled in a confined space, officials said, and can cause a massive explosion if ignited.

"We're anxious to get people back home," Akins said.

[For the Record, 6:01 p.m. PDT, Sept. 24: A previous version of this post said the families were evacuated Aug. 12; it was Sept. 12.]

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Twitter: LATangel

angel.jennings@latimes.com

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