BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kevin Schula came home Thursday afternoon to a distinctive smell.
“When you try to light your stove and it doesn’t light, and it’s been going for ten seconds — that’s exactly what it smelled like,” Schula said.
Hours before, homeowners in the East Bakersfield neighborhood had been visited by a man who gave them a flier.
“Warning,” it said.
“Major gas leak in your area.”
“I actually went in and closed the windows,” local resident Bobbi Scales said.
Multiple organizations confirmed in statements to 17 News that a pair of idle oil wells — wells that aren’t in use but haven’t been sealed — were found with what the California Department of Conservation called “pinhole-sized leaks.”
Those wells sit mere hundreds of feet from a housing development in East Bakersfield.
“It’s right next to my house, on the other side of the fence,” Scales said.
The Department of Conservation and the Bakersfield Fire Department both said the leaks posed no public health risk.
A report by the Sierra Club not independently verified by 17 News says the level of methane emissions maxed out an inspector’s equipment. That puts the output from one well above 50,000 parts per million — the threshold at which methane gas becomes explosive in air.
By Friday afternoon, Department of Conservation crews were on site, working to patch the leak, the department confirmed.
Apart from the man distributing fliers — Cesar Aguirre, an activist with the Central California Environmental Justice Network — the neighbors remained in the dark.
“No phone, no warning on the phone, nothing like that,” Schula said.
17 News has reached out to the San Joaquin Valley Air District and the Department of Conservation to confirm the inspector’s readings and inquire whether any attempt was made to contact residents, with no response as of press time.