The underground methane gas leak in Los Angeles has reached critical levels, prompting a state of emergency to be declared. The leak has reportedly released an amount of pollution that is equivalent to 4.5 million vehicles on a daily basis since it originally started in October of last year.

When humans are exposed to certain added chemicals within the methane gas, they experience temporary health ailments. So far, the leak has forced more than 2,000 families to relocate from their homes. The effects from the leak were first reported in the affluent Porter Ranch neighborhood on the outskirts of Los Angeles on October 23. Many of these families were forced to spend their holidays in a hotel.

People working on the situation have stated that measures of repairing the damaged pipeline and stopping the leak have been underway for quite some time. So far, methods of stopping the leak have proven to be unsuccessful. According to officials from Southern California Gas, the company should fix the leak sometime in February or March.

Residents located within a few miles of the leak have been largely complaining of headaches, nausea, and respiratory issues. The symptoms are not caused by the methane gas itself, but rather mercaptans which have been added to the gas. Mercaptans are what give the methane gas its distinct smell so that officials can detect when a leak has occurred. Health officials have stated that there are no known long-term health effects from exposure to mercaptans.

But while the gas leak isn’t causing any permanent damage to humans, the same cannot be said for the environment. Current estimates show that the methane from the leak now represents roughly a quarter of the entire state’s total emissions of methane. So far, the climate equivalent has been compared to burning 700 million gallons of gasoline.

Residents who have been forced to relocate have been compensated for their inconvenience. Officials from South California Gas have stated that the company has taken total responsibility for the incident and that they intend on fully cooperating with state and local officials, as well as regulatory agencies.

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