I’m hearing about people smelling the gas and getting sick in Chatsworth, Canoga Park, Reseda, and San Fernando. This is all over the valley. People outside the Porter Ranch zip code are being told that they are not eligible for funds for relocation. This has to change.

The leak is in an old well about a mile outside the Los Angeles city limits on a hill overlooking the San Fernando Valley. The closest communities are Porter Ranch (1 mile from the leak), Granada Hills (1.25 miles), and Chatsworth (2 miles).

The gas does not know to follow U.S. Postal Service boundaries. With literally about a ton of gas escaping every minute, this gas is filling the entire Valley. Especially the heavier components, like benzene and radon, which are also the most dangerous components, are settling into the lower parts of the Valley, carrying the poisons to all our homes.

SoCalGas is providing funds for people to relocate, but only if they are in Porter Ranch itself. Thousands of families have applied for relocation.

This is massive. This is like the BP oil spill, except with natural gas. The volume of gas being released into the atmosphere each day is actually greater than the volume of oil released by the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and this disaster will continue for many more days than the BP disaster did.

SoCalGas should provide for testing inside homes and businesses to determine if gases are accumulating in some places. We know that one house might smell the gas strongly while next door they smell nothing. We don’t know if benzene might be accumulating in some baby’s bedroom.

Benzene and radon both contribute to cumulative lifetime cancer risks.

The well that is leaking is over 60-years-old. Half of the wells are over 70. They were intended to only be around for 20 years. This isn’t the first major leak at this site, and it won’t be the last if we let it continue operating. We must shut down this storage site.

Richard Mathews is a candidate for state Senator of West San Fernando Valley (27th District).