Twenty-nine Los Angeles firefighters have filed a lawsuit against Southern California Gas Co., alleging that the utility lied to them about the chemical hazards of a well blowout they responded to in October 2015, resulting in health problems from their exposure to toxins.
The complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, says the utility assured firefighters the gas was not toxic, so they entered the area without any protective gear and ultimately performed a four-month-long operation.
According to the LA Times, in the months following the discovery of the leak, researchers calculated the well released an estimated 97,100 tons of methane and 7,300 tons of ethane. Both are known carcinogens.
The firefighters filing the suit say they suffer from respiratory problems, severe headaches, nosebleeds, skin rashes, dizziness and cancer.
“SoCalGas engaged in a massive disinformation campaign to understate the risks by telling residents and public agencies: ‘Scientists agree natural gas is not toxic,’ ” the complaint states. “SoCalGas’ assurances were knowingly false or made with a reckless disregard for the truth.”
Residents near the Aliso Canyon underground natural gas storage facility where the leak occurred experienced headaches and nausea. Thousands of them were evacuated.
The firefighters are seeking unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees. The lawsuit against the utility is one of hundreds related to the leak. Southern California gas has already agreed to pay $119.5 million to settle claims that it failed to promptly control the leak and alert authorities.