Workers Seek to Cap Water, Methane Leak That Prompted Evacuations

A company that worked on burning gas wells in Iraq was in Hawthorne Monday to attempt to plug an abandoned well that began shooting water and methane into the air four days before, prompting evacuations, a fire official said.

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Workers on Monday continued to work on a methane and gas leak in Hawthorne.

The company, Boots & Coots, had been brought in by the Golden State Water Co., a private water supplier that was working on an old well Thursday when the leak began, creating a 30-foot geyser, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Brian Jordan.

County firefighters and officials from other agencies had been on scene since Thursday, when 37 homes were evacuated after methane and water began shooting from the well near Imperial Highway and Truro Avenue (map).

Methane gas, present underground in the Los Angeles Basin naturally and in pipelines in the region, is highly combustible, and it can be deadly if inhaled in concentration. The fire department responded to the gas leak because of the high fire danger, Jordan said.

Imperial Highway and the 105 Freeway — one of the main routes to Los Angeles International Airport — were shut down temporarily Monday while workers performed a dangerous operation to begin shutting down the geyser, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Brian Jordan.

Boots & Coots International Well Control, Inc., owned by Halliburton, installed a large piping system powered by multiple motors that shot water down into the abandoned well, stopping the flow of methane and water, Jordan said. Mud or cement may be used in future, he said.

“Fortunately, we’ve gotten to a point … today where we wish we were at day one. But to handle an incident like that, you can’t just take care of it the first day,” Jordan said. “There are a lot of steps that need to be taken.”

Boots & Coots had worked on burning oil wells in Iraq, Jordan said.

Workers had on Sunday removed a shed that was on top of the abandoned well, Jordan said.

Families will be allowed to return to their nearby homes once the well is capped and readings show no methane is escaping, Jordan said. He had no estimate on when that would be complete.

The Hawthorne Police Department was monitoring neighborhoods had had been evacuated, Jordan said.

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