Porter Ranch Gas Blowout
This series is about bringing visibility to an invisible environmental disaster: The Porter Ranch Gas Blowout. Porter Ranch is a suburb of Los Angeles and my hometown. Between October 2015 and late February 2016, an estimated 100,000 metric tons of methane and other gases (some poisonous) spewed out of a blown out well next to our homes.
Initially the gas company responsible reassured the community that the gas was harmless. Then people started experiencing symptoms including headaches, nausea, rashes, and uncontrollable nosebleeds. Children were especially vulnerable.
In late November, Los Angeles county health officials ordered Southern California Gas Co. to help residents relocate. The air in Porter Ranch had been toxic for over a month.
In mid-December, Los Angeles Unified school District authorized the shut down of two schools in Porter Ranch. Teachers and young students were breathing toxic air and getting sick for two months.
Outside of the Porter Ranch bubble, this disaster received little media attention. The blowout fails to have the same type of dramatic imagery as other environmental catastrophes such as the BP oil spill or the mining disaster in Brazil. The poisonous gas is invisible.
These images were taken in Porter Ranch during the blowout. All of the kids in the photos are from Porter Ranch and the surrounding communities impacted. The blowout was finally plugged a few weeks after I shot this series. Some residents have returned to normalcy. Others are still in temporary housing because they still get sick every time they enter their homes. Schools were finally re-opened for the 2016-2017 school year. The facility has had a number of accidents and leaks since the blowout was capped, causing more residents to experience health problems. There is currently a grassroots movement to shut down the Aliso Canyon storage facility to prevent another catastrophic blowout.