ECHO PARK — State regulators said they will permanently seal two oil wells left abandoned in the front yards of homes on Firmin Street after discovering they were leaking small amounts of natural gas into the neighborhood.
The wells, which were drilled more than a century ago, “pose no imminent danger” but are expected to “continue to deteriorate without intervention,” according to a statement issued by the California Department of Conservation.
The so-called “orphan wells” are located within a few feet of the front doors of homes at 323 and 324 Firmin, a narrow street located south of Temple Street. In 2015, state officials received odor complaints from across the street from one of the wells. In December 2015, a property owner uncovered a buried well, which was found to be unsecured and leaking, according to the department.
Testing last month showed “negligible readings” for both methane and hydrogen sulfide at the surface. “However, there was a noticeable ‘rotten egg’ smell near the well, indicative of low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide,” according to a department summary.
“The owners or operators walked away from these wells and never properly sealed them, so now the state
must step in and close them correctly,” said California Department of Conservation Director David
Bunn in a statement. “These wells need to be properly sealed. We understand the work will inconvenience the community and are working hard to reduce those impacts and get everything finished as quickly as possible.”
The state will spend about $360,000 to cap the wells, named Patel 1 and Rogalske 10, that were both drilled sometime prior to 1903, according to the department. Officials warned residents to expect interruptions, including the closure of the southern tip of the street, during the approximately six weeks it will take to close the wells.
The wells on Firmin Street are so old that one of them consists of a redwood box that sits atop a hole that is between 1,000 to 1,500 feet deep.
Click here for details on how the wells will be sealed.
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