LA oil field causes sickness among residents

An oil field in South Los Angeles, where Allenco Energy Co. increased oil production in 2010, might be responsible for the dizziness, headaches and nosebleeds residents have been experiencing, according to a recent Los Angeles Times article.

Foul odor · The oil wells are located on the 800 block of West 23rd Street in South Los Angeles, which is about a mile away from USC’s campus.  - William Ehart | Daily Trojan

Foul odor · The oil wells are located on the 800 block of West 23rd Street in South Los Angeles, which is about a mile away from USC’s campus. – William Ehart | Daily Trojan


The oil field, located adjacent to Mount St. Mary’s College, recently increased production by more than 400 percent.

Allenco Energy produced 4,178 barrels of oil on the land, which is rented from the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in 2009 and 21,239 barrels of oil there in 2010, according to the state’s Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources.

Residents of the community noticed a strange odor and complained 251 times to air quality officials since the oil field increased production, compared to the eight University Park complaints in 2008 to 2009, the Times reported. Allenco has been cited 15 times by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for foul odors. The district, however, said the air samples it tested showed that the odors are harmless.

Najmedin Meshkati, a professor in the Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USC, is an expert in the process of safety management at petrochemical plants. When asked about the safety of having an oil field adjacent to schools and homes, he said that it really depends on what the company is doing at each site. If it is at the production level and it is well-sealed and well-maintained, then there should not be a problem.

“We cannot have a generic rule,” Meshkati said.

Many students at USC also said that air pollution is a problem in Los Angeles.

Emily Jetter, a sophomore majoring in psychology, said she is frequently out of breath  in Los Angeles, because there is so much pollution in the air when she is walking.

“When I go home I just take a breath of fresh air and I feel like the air is actually going into my lungs,” said Jetter, who is originally from Connecticut.

The oil wells are located on West 23rd Street, just over a mile from USC’s campus. Many students who enjoy exercising outdoors around campus said the air quality in Los Angeles is concerning.

“I usually go running in the morning and night and I wish there were more trees so the air would be cleaner,” said Madai Sanchez, a senior majoring in civil engineering.

Emily Bayasud, a first-year graduate student at the School of Social Work, recently came to Los Angeles from New York. She heard about the allegations against Allenco and said the problem should be fixed before it leads to worse consequences.

“It should be nipped in the bud. It’s a problem, and it should always be addressed,” Bayasud said.

Maite Francois, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience, blamed the city’s overcrowded conditions for the unfortunate placement of an oil field so close to residential and academic buildings. She said that she did not believe Los Angeles allocated enough space for the oil field, in order for it to not be a problem for residents.

“Like every big city, there are going to be impurities in the air, but this situation is not acceptable,” Francois said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency on Sept. 26, asking the group to investigate and address the issue.


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