Frequently Asked Questions & Related Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of research will be conducted?

The Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study Scientific Oversight Committee (SOC) is responsible for making decisions on the scientific direction of the Health Study, including the specific goals, the framing of the requirements for funding, the criteria that will be used to evaluate proposals, and all other scientific details to be incorporated into the Request for Proposals (RFP), which will be released in the Summer of 2021. Applicants must propose research designs that are responsive to the final Health Research Study goals and priorities and the requirements of the RFP to be considered for funding. The Statement of Work (SOW) within the RFP will provide direction to the proposers by outlining the goals of Health Study and priority research topics/areas of interest. It is expected that a variety of research methods and designs will be proposed. Proposals will be systematically reviewed to identify designs with the greatest potential to evaluate and better understand the impacts of the Aliso Canyon Disaster on the health and well-being of communities and individuals living in the areas surrounding the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility.

What are the Health Study Goals and Priorities?

The Health Study Goals & Priorities have been informed by SOC meeting discussions, a wealth of feedback from community members and a presentation by the CAG.

To ensure that the RFP captures what is most important to the community, the draft Health Study Goals and Priorities document was made available to the public on the ACDHRS website for public comment and feedback. During a 6-week public comment period, community members were able to submit their comments via an online feedback form or email. In addition to providing general feedback, community members were encouraged to identify what is of greatest concern and/or interest to them.

At the close of the public comment period, the community feedback will be shared with the Scientific Oversight Committee (SOC) and used to finalize the Health Study Goals and Priorities which will be incorporated into the RFP. Through the RFP process, independent, third-party researchers will propose research methodologies that are scientifically robust and responsive to the finalized goals and priorities of the Health Study. At the end of the Health Research Study’s third year, the Scientific Oversight Committee will independently analyze and determine whether the Health Study is likely to achieve the predetermined goals.

When will the research start?

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (Public Health) aims to release the Request for Proposals (RPF) in Summer of 2021 and to have contract(s) awarded in early 2022. Funding for the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study (ACDHRS) was provided to Public Health in March 2019 through a settlement agreement between the State, County, and City of Los Angeles with SoCalGas. Since then, Public Health has established a Community Advisory Group (CAG) and, as required by the settlement agreement, the Scientific Oversight Committee (SOC) and has been engaging community members in an effort to gain a comprehensive understanding of the community’s concerns and priorities for the Health Study.

How will independent, third-party researchers be selected?

Third-party independent researchers will be solicited through a RFP process. All interested researchers may submit a proposal. The solicitation process is not limited to a pre-approved list of contractors. The RFP will be issued publicly and will include specifics about the research opportunity including work requirements and funding. Submitted proposals will go through several rounds of review and funding may be awarded to one or more researchers or research groups. The RFP process takes 9-12 months from the time the RFP is prepared to the time a contract is awarded. Public Health anticipates releasing the RFP in the Summer of 2021 and awarding a contract in early 2022.

Why is a Request For Proposals (RFP) process being used to solicit independent third-party researchers?

Feedback from the SOC and the CAG guided the decision to use a RFP. The RFP process provides an open invitation to interested researchers and research groups to apply for the research funding opportunity and will maximize the likelihood of securing researcher(s) who have the necessary experience and expertise to implement a multi-faceted health research study.

How are the funds for the Health Study being allocated?

In an effort to allocate as much as possible of the specific Settlement funding for the Study to actual Health Study research, Public Health has been providing in-kind support in the initial development phases of the ACDHRS. Up to this point in time, the focus has been on identifying health concerns and research priorities through community engagement and establishing systems needed to launch the Study, and funds have been allocated accordingly. For example, Settlement funds supported the development and implementation of the Community Opinion Survey which provided valuable insights on the experiences, concerns, and priorities of residents of communities near the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, many of whom were directly impacted by the Aliso Canyon blowout. Additionally, Settlement funds have enabled the collection of environmental data through the collection and testing of samples of waste materials from the Aliso Canyon blowout and well-control attempts.

Where can I find more information about the Aliso Canyon Settlement and supplemental environmental projects?

The Aliso Fund Committee launched a new website that will act as a repository for materials relating to settlement of The People v. Southern California Gas Company litigation. Please visit Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Blowout Litigation Settlement Page for information about the settlement, including information relating to supplemental environmental projects (SEP’s) being implemented as part of that settlement.

Is there sufficient environmental data for a health study?

A wealth of existing data and information related to the Aliso Canyon blowout and gas storage facility operations exists and may be used by independent third-party researchers to conduct the forthcoming Health Study. The Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study Scientific Oversight Committee believes that the wealth of existing data and information can support a robust Health Study to evaluate potential health impacts to the residents of the communities impacted by the blowout.

Numerous parties - including regulatory agencies, academic institutions, and companies – have taken measurements within the facility and the surrounding communities and continue to collect relevant data and information. The existing data and information include but are not limited to hazardous materials and wastes inventory reports, sampling and analysis data, air monitoring data, and incident reports, among others.

Of note, samples have been collected directly from the gas storage reservoir and from bins that were storing soils and materials from the blowout and well-control operations. The samples were tested for an extensive array of oil and gas chemicals and the results provide information on the chemicals that were stored in the reservoir and released during the blowout and well-control attempts. Additionally, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) is required to regularly submit chemical inventories as part of the Unified Program overseen by the CalEPA. Air and other environmental samples that were, and continue to be, collected within the community provide information on the chemicals that residents may have been exposed to.

The Attorney General, Los Angeles City Attorney, and County all agreed to settle the litigation against SoCalGas and resolve all disputes in the lawsuits, and the County is not going to issue a subpoena seeking information from SoCalGas. Los Angeles County and Public Health will continue to collect and compile additional data and information related to the blowout and operations at the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility.

To view a summary of the existing environmental data, please visit the Health Research Study Introduction and Resources webpage.

Where can I learn about chemicals that are used at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility and that were released during the 2015-2016 Aliso Canyon blowout?

Please visit the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study Introduction and Resources page for a summary of existing data and information related to the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility operations and the 2015-2016 well blowout. The purpose of the summary is to serve as an inventory of data and information that may inform research to be conducted as part of the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study. Among other pertinent information, the summary includes information on air sampling conducted within the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility and the surrounding communities spanning from the time of the blowout to the present day, and other environmental data and data sources including soil and water sampling collected within the Aliso Canyon facility and surrounding communities. Another source of information listed in the summary are hazardous materials and wastes inventories that the Southern California Gas Company is required to submit to the California Environmental Reporting System (CERS) on an annual basis.

Where can I find information on the materials/chemicals used during the well control (aka "well kill") operations to stop the blowout?

Please visit the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study Introduction and Resources page and refer to the Existing Data and Information Summary . In the summary, there is a list of well control materials (fluids and additives) that were used during the well control operations to stop the blowout. In addition, in 2020, Public Health conducted extensive testing on samples that were collected from bins that were containing materials from the well blowout and well control operations. Information on this testing is also available in the summary.

Aliso Canyon Waste Bins

On August 4th, 2020 Public Health worked with a third-party contractor to collect samples from waste bins containing soils and waste materials from the Aliso Canyon blowout and well-control operations (e.g., fluids, oily products and drilling muds) that were under a legal hold by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The samples were tested for an extensive array of oil and gas chemicals. The lab results were reviewed by the SOC and are publicly available on the ACDHRS website. Upon recommendation by the SOC, Public Health collected additional samples on October 29 for potential future use by the Health Study researchers.

Thirty-one bins containing soil contaminated with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) were transported to an approved treatment/disposal facility in 2016 in accordance with South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) Rule 1166. Further information on the regulatory context for the removal and disposal of the 31 bins is provided below:

  • SCAQMD Rule 1166 requires any person excavating or grading VOC-contaminated soils – such as those caused by a leak from storage or transfer operations, or accidental spillage – to submit, obtain approval for, and operate pursuant to a site specific mitigation plan. The rule requires that surface soil monitoring take place upon the commencement of excavation activities, as well as throughout the excavation project.
  • Upon detection of VOC-contaminated soil, which is defined as soil registering greater than 50 ppm VOC using a portable hydrocarbon analyzer, operators are required to implement mitigation plan requirements. All VOC-contaminated soil must be stockpiled separately from uncontaminated soil and removed from the site within 30 days.
  • Waste manifests show that the 31 bins were transported to an approved treatment/disposal facility. Rule 1166 does not require a person to monitor or record the VOC concentration of soil after it is excavated and properly stored in bins. SCAQMD does not possess records of VOC readings or laboratory samples of the soil that was contained in the 31 bins. More information regarding Rule 1166 can be found on the South Coast AQMD website.

Radiation Monitoring and Radioisotope Testing Results

On November 12, 2020, the Department of Public Health’s (Public Health) Radiation Management conducted radiation surveys of Aliso Canyon waste bins containing materials from the blowout and well-control operations. Radioisotope testing results can be found on the Health Research Study Introduction and Resources webpage.

Public Health surveyed for the three basic types of ionizing radiation: alpha, beta, and gamma. All three types are caused by unstable atoms, which then release radioactive particles or energy to become stable. All of these types of ionizing radiation occur in nature. When analyzing radiation survey measurements, it is common to compare the measurements to background readings found in nature, which is always around us.

In summary, all test results indicate that the alpha, beta, and gamma radiation levels measured from the Aliso Canyon waste bins sampled are very low, comparable to background levels, and the low levels of radiation encountered do not pose an immediate health risk.

For further information on radiation and everyday exposure levels, please visit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Doses in Our Daily Lives and Radiation and Its Health Effects.

Is there a report on the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) 2019 spot fire investigation?

A 5-agency task force that is overseeing an investigation by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) regarding a 2019 spot fire in an area of the storage field called Catch Basin 3 that was presumed to have been fueled by storage facility gas emissions. SoCalGas released a report to the task force on the results of the investigation and the gas emittance was determined to be a result of “natural subsurface seep” and not storage facility gas. The report was provided to the CAG for their review and comment. SoCalGas provided an update on these findings on their website and is currently conducting follow up analyses.

Is a cancer surveillance analysis being conducted?

Public Health is aware that cancer is an ongoing concern to residents of communities surrounding the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. Therefore, in advance of the ACDHRS Public Health connected Community Advisory Group (CAG) members with researchers at the USC Cancer Surveillance Program (CSP)¸ the population-based cancer registry for Los Angeles County, which routinely responds to community concerns regarding cancer occurrences. The CSP routinely collects and analyzes information on all new cancer diagnoses made among residents of the County. Through a series of conversations with the CAG members, the CSP developed an analysis plan with approved methods developed by the CDC. The analysis would be conducted by the CSP in advance of the Study as a separate effort to determine whether cancer rates in communities surrounding Aliso Canyon are higher than expected by comparing the rates to those in Los Angeles County. The use of Los Angeles County as a comparator is standard protocol to control for factors that contribute to cancer risk and a null finding would not necessarily mean that there is absence of cancer risk. Based on community concerns and conversations with the CSP, CAG members are considering the CSP's proposed analysis.

Is a complete blood count (CBC) analysis being conducted?

Following the Aliso Canyon Blowout, a community physician obtained data on blood test results from a licensed clinical laboratory. A comparison of data from adults in the Porter Ranch zip code to data from adults in other zip codes indicated that blood counts were on average slightly lower in the Porter Ranch zip code than in three comparison zip codes. Based on these findings, Public Health agreed to pursue data from a larger clinical laboratory to conduct a more detailed analysis and include children. Although this initiative is separate from the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study (ACHRS), the CBC analysis may inform research that is conducted as part of the Study. Public Health signed a data use agreement with a large commercial clinical laboratory, has obtained the dataset, began preliminary analysis of the data, and plans to be done by Summer 2021.

Additional Information and Resources

What is the Community Air Monitoring Fund?

As part of People of the State of California v. Southern California Gas Company's Consent Decree (Appendix D) approved by the Los Angeles Superior Court on February 25, 2019, a Community Air Monitoring Fund will be utilized to develop a real-time air monitoring network and a symptom and incident reporting system in Porter Ranch and the communities surrounding the facility. This initiative is being led by the Aliso Fund Committee. The Aliso Fund Committee is composed of one representative each from the Attorney General, Los Angeles City Attorney, and the Los Angeles County Counsel. Several public meetings have been held about potential enhanced air monitoring networks. Links to presentation materials can be found on the Canyon Natural Gas Blowout Litigation Settlement website.

Regulatory Agencies: Who does what?

LA County and other local, state, and federal agencies are working to protect you, your health, and the environment. There are many public agencies that are responsible for making sure different laws and regulations are followed and it can be confusing to figure out where to report a problem. Learn more about which Local Agencies to Call for Problems in your community. Please also check out the SoCalGas Regulators webpage for more information.