THE ALLENCO SITE
WELL COUNT: 21 oil wells (currently inactive, but pending reopening)
COMPANY: AllenCo Energy
DISTANCE FROM HOMES: 30 feet
After four years of nosebleeds, headaches and respiratory illnesses, the community living near AllenCo could finally breathe a bit easier. Though mothers had lost their senses of smell and children had been sent to the hospital, they could celebrate the victory of shutting down the site that had poisoned them and the EPA investigators that were immediately sickened during their inspection of the site.
Until recently, AllenCo Energy operated 21 oil wells, on land leased by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The site, which is next door to low-income housing, day care centers and numerous schools and colleges, including USC, was temporarily shutdown by the EPA in November 2013 after investigators fell ill while visiting the site. AllenCo is currently working to reopen the site, despite community protest.
For years, members of our community suffered from serious respiratory problems, nosebleeds, headaches and nausea because of the toxic fumes emanating from the drilling site. One child living near the site was sent to the hospital with severe headaches, stomach pains and heart problems. Only later was it discovered that these health impacts were a result of a 400% increase in drilling operations.
It took three years, numerous protests, and over 250 complaints to the AQMD before regulatory agencies stepped in to inspect the site and take air samples. Finally, EPA investigators came to inspect the site at the request of Senator Barbara Boxer, and were immediately sickened by the fumes at the site.
The site has since been shut down. AllenCo is now on the hook for $1.25 million in civic penalties for the harm they have caused to the community. They will remain closed until they install a health and safety monitoring system designed to be more protective of public health and more responsive to complaints from local residents than existing regulations require.
“This is a residential community with nine educational institutions and early childcare facilities. Residents were left entirely unprotected by the regulations that are supposed to protect them.”
The number one priority of the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation is community health. Finding AllenCo as the source of the foul odors and sudden illnesses of their residents, they began educating the community on how to record their symptoms, report safety concerns and protect themselves in their homes. The community drafted a letter to Pope Francis, asking him to call on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to invoke the values of his encyclical on environmental justice and refuse to lease land to the oil industry.
Youth from the community have been actively collecting health surveys and installing air monitoring equipment - taking their community's health into their own hands.