PORTER RANCH, Calif., Feb. 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Twenty-two firefighters have joined the lawsuit against Southern California Gas Company ("SoCalGas") in a lawsuit alleging the utility knowingly exposed them to hazardous levels of known toxins like benzene and formaldehyde according to the complaint. This brings the total of firefighters suing SoCalGas to 51.
The new complaint highlights how SoCalGas and DPH allegedly tried to bury the startling information on the toxic levels of benzene by misrepresenting the findings. In fact, 1996 was the last time SoCalGas gave the public actual notice of the benzene risk.
Just some of the troubling behavior by SoCalGas and DPH include:
- SoCalGas tested some gas just before the sealing of the SS-25 well and determined gas from one nearby wells showed benzene levels of 100,000 parts per billion, which is 100,000 times higher than the standard set by California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
- DPH did release a report showing benzene levels at an average of 2.2 ppb, which is twice the state standard for benzene levels, which DPH was forced to admit as "above typical ambient background levels in Los Angeles."
- DPH attempted to hide this severely increased rate by using a higher standard (8ppb) for acute, one-hour exposure to try to downplay the risk (See the attached graphic). It also stopped testing for benzene at Castlebay Elementary where students and teachers experienced severe health issues. The failure to test put every student and teacher at increased risk with benzene levels at the school ranging from .2 ppb to 3.8 ppb. DPH never submitted corrected notices to the public or firefighters over the true levels of air toxicity.
The firefighters were the first responders who willingly risked their lives to help residents of Porter Ranch only to be unknowingly placed in harm's way. Shortly after the gas well blowout in October 2015, firefighters jumped into action by helping protect the community and respond to 911 calls from residents and SoCalGas employees. The firefighters at Station 28 (in Porter Ranch) requested air purifiers from SoCalGas in December 2015, but the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) joined with SoCalGas to say there were no health impacts.
Together, DPH and SoCalGas told the LAFD the same thing as the public that "natural gas is not toxic." But SoCalGas issued a proposition 65 notice in August of 2018 saying the exact opposite – natural gas has chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer.
"Firefighters consider it an honor to risk our lives to save others, but being thrown into a dangerous situation without warning is disgusting," said Daniel Mehterian, a recently retired firefighter. "DPH withheld data that could have offered us protection, or at least enough information to know how to protect ourselves. They put us in harms way, put residents in harms way, all to cover up their own terrible behavior. And now, my brothers, my sisters, and I are left with possible life-long health issues."
The firefighters allege that SoCalGas misled them about the extent of the chemical exposure to workers stationed near Porter Ranch during the blowout. SoCalGas failed to protect the first responders tasked with protecting the public and exposed these firefighters to hazardous chemicals. The firefighters claim they suffered from, and in some cases continue to suffer from nosebleeds, migraine headaches, dizziness, skin rashes, sleeping difficulties, and breathing difficulties. Many now battle cancer.
"Our first responders were intentionally misled about the dangers they faced when rushing in to help Porter Ranch residents following the worst single natural gas blowout in U.S. history," said attorney Brian Panish. "We believe the actions of Southern California Gas Company has harmed these selfless public servants and we intend to hold the utility accountable for its false assurances that the gas coming from the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility was safe."
"The number of firefighters SoCalGas put at risk is staggering," said attorney R. Rex Parris. "Over four dozen men and women who willingly risk their lives everyday to keep us safe were knowingly placed in a danger zone without any ability to properly protect themselves and inform the public. This is borderline criminal behavior in my opinion."
About PARRIS Law Firm
PARRIS Law Firm, a Los Angeles County-based business, has devoted the past 34 years to helping families who have been victims of catastrophic injuries as a result of someone else's careless actions. PARRIS Law Firm has secured numerous multi-million dollar victories, including a record-breaking defamation jury verdict in Los Angeles for $370 million, a $135 million wage-and-hour class action settlement, a $57 million verdict for brothers involved in a head-on collision with a big-rig truck, and a $42 million verdict for a man who was severely injured in a horrific T-bone collision. Widely recognized as one of America's top Personal Injury, Employment, and Environmental law firms, PARRIS Law Firm has the proven track record necessary to help families in need. www.parrislawyers.com
About Panish Shea & Boyle LLP
Panish Shea & Boyle LLP represents plaintiffs in wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury, product liability, mass torts, and business litigation cases. Firm attorneys serve in leadership roles in some of the largest personal injury cases against utility companies in the state including Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Southern California Gas Company, and dedicate themselves to obtaining justice for clients who are dealing with a life-altering injury, death of a family member or other challenges caused by the wrongful act of another. The firm is consistently ranked among the best plaintiff's law firms in the country, including by U.S. News & World Report, where it's recognized as a Tier One law firm in the areas of Plaintiffs Personal Injury Litigation, Plaintiffs Product Liability Litigation, and Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions as well as by the National Law Journal which named the firm in its Elite Trial Lawyers list. psblaw.com
About the Law Firm of Morgan & Morgan
Morgan & Morgan is one of the largest exclusively plaintiffs' law firms in the US, with 25 offices throughout Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and New York. The firm handles cases nationally and has been a leader in cases such as the BP Oil spill and Chinese Drywall litigation. We have over 300 lawyers with years of experience involving personal injury, medical malpractice, consumer class action, and securities fraud--as well as complex litigation against drug and medical device manufacturers. For more information, visit www.forthepeople.com
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