News Room

Toxic L.A. Oil Pumps

Written on behalf of Brian Kabateck

March 23, 2018

There’s growing concern about the health and safety threat to people who live, work and play alongside oil wells in Los Angeles. According to the community group Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling-Los Angeles (STAND-L.A.), since 2013, oil companies have used more than 98 million pounds of chemicals known to cause serious health problems in Los Angeles County.

There are at least 5,300 oil wells in Los Angeles, with 3,400 of them actively producing oil and gas. Many of them are in close proximity to low-income or minority neighborhoods, parks, and schools. Some of the reported problems from residents living near oil wells include asthma, low birth weights, nosebleeds, eye irritation and neurological issues to name a few, as well as the constant noise and foul smells that can come from the wells. Those who live closest to oil and gas sites are at the highest risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and poor air quality.

Drilling sites in South Los Angeles and Wilmington are on average 260 to 300 feet closer to homes than those in West L.A. and Wilshire, in addition to having fewer safety protections. An investigation was ordered by the city of Los Angeles after complaints of headaches, eye and throat irritation, nausea and vomiting were received from residents of South Los Angeles, Wilmington and other unincorporated county areas in the past several years. The county worked with the Oil and Gas Strike Team which investigated several sites. The team found 15 with wells or tanks less than 300 feet from the nearest residence or school; two of those sites contained 60 wells.

Drill sites in Los Angeles are known to leak hydrogen sulfide gas, which is toxic to humans even at low concentrations. The oil industry is California’s largest industrial source of organic compound emissions, the key component of smog. Extraction sites emit known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Residents shouldn’t be exposed to these toxins in their homes, schools or places of work, but that’s exactly what’s happening in neighborhoods across Los Angeles.

Many people including celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio and groups such as STAND-L.A. have fought against neighborhood drilling. STAND-L.A. is an environmental justice coalition of community groups that seek to end neighborhood drilling to protect the health and safety of the residents of Los Angeles on the front lines of urban oil extraction. They believe that the City of Los Angeles is responsible for protecting every resident from the health and safety risks associated with drilling for oil in close proximity to their homes, schools and places of work. They argue that communities, not oil and gas corporations, should have the power to shape a safe and healthy future for their families.

In order to protect the residents of Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Department of Health advises drilling sites to expand the minimum setback distance beyond 300 feet, as currently specified in local zoning code, and apply these requirements to the siting of new wells and to the development of sensitive land uses near existing operations. Aging oil and gas infrastructure in Los Angeles County, not only at abandoned wells, but also in active wells, pipelines, and associated infrastructure, raises an important public health concern. Regulatory agencies should explore opportunities to utilize the best available technology at oil production facilities in order to prevent public health impacts.

A mass tort is a civil action that involves a large group of plaintiffs who’ve suffered injuries and consolidate their cases to sue one or a few corporations in state or federal court. In U.S. federal courts, mass tort claims are frequently consolidated as multidistrict litigation. While the plaintiffs may live in different geographical locations, they share a common injury or damage. Mass disaster torts, mass toxic torts and consumer product liability torts are the main categories associated with this cause of action.

KBK has many years of experience handling mass tort cases and multi-district litigation. If you or a loved one has experienced injuries due to a disaster, a dangerous drug or a defective product, contact one of our experienced attorneys at Kabateck LLP to learn more about recovering damages and to explore your options.