(FOX 11 / CNS) Well specialists today will try to cap a Hawthorne water well that has been spewing methane gas and water for nearly four days, as 37 evacuated families await the "all clear'' to return home, a county fire captain said.
Boots and Coots International Well Control, a blowout control company, will try to cap the well along Imperial Highway between Inglwood and Firmona avenues about 10 a.m., county fire Capt. Brian Jordan told City News Service.
The operation involves putting together a piping system to relieve pressure on the well, then pumping in mud to cap it. Imperial Highway was closed between Inglewood and Firmona avenues.
"We will also be moving all the media back from the location as well as most of the emergency personnel for safety's sake,'' Jordan said. "Anytime you try and take minerals out of Mother Earth, it can be dangerous.'' Dangers can include flash fire and explosions, he said, but if the flow of methane is stopped, evacuated residents will be allowed to go home. Evacuated residents were allowed to return home Sunday to pick up pets, medicine and clothing.
"We do let them come home, and get their stuff,'' Jordan said. "This gas is not accumulating in any big explosive amount, but in a rare case it could cause a little flash-poof.''
The trouble was reported at 6:22 p.m. Thursday, when a build up of methane gas blew out a well operated by Golden State Water Co. along Imperial between Truro and Condon avenues, Jordan said.
Boots and Coots, a Halliburton company, is internationally famous for its experience capping out of control oil gushers or fiery gas wells. Firefighters said the company will attempt "to control the mixture of high-pressure water and methane gas release on the private property.''
Methane gas naturally occurs in pockets under much of the Southern California flatlands, geologists said. When collected by pipelines, the odorless methane is scented with an additive, then piped into businesses and homes as "natural gas.''
Jordan said methane itself is not poisonous but can be deadly if it displaces oxygen in an enclosed space, or if it reaches a proper mixture with air to become explosive.