A crew of specialists stopped the flow of water and methane gas spewing from a Hawthorne well Monday, but efforts were continuing to fully cap the well that began leaking four days ago and forced 37 families from their homes.
The problem was first reported at 6:22 p.m. Thursday, when a build-up of methane gas blew out a well operated by Golden State Water Co. along Imperial Highway between Truro and Condon avenues, according to Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Brian Jordan.
Boots and Coots International Well Control, a blowout control company, was brought in to try to cap the well. Imperial Highway was shut down in the area, and the Glenn Anderson (105) Freeway was closed between Crenshaw Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway when the capping effort began late Monday morning.
The freeway was reopened about an hour later.
The well-control company assembled a piping system to relieve pressure on the well, then began pumping in mud in hopes of capping it. Jordan said that by 2:45 p.m., the flow of water and methane had stopped, but crews were still injecting mud and other materials to fully cap the well. That effort could be completed later Monday or Tuesday, he said.
Meanwhile, evacuated residents were still awaiting an all-clear. They were allowed to briefly return to their homes Sunday to pick up pets, medicine and clothing.
Boots and Coots, a Halliburton company, is internationally famous for its experience capping out-of-control oil gushers or fiery gas wells.
Methane gas naturally occurs in pockets under much of the Southern California flatlands, geologists said. When collected by pipelines, the odorless methane is scented with an additive, then piped into businesses and homes as "natural gas."
Jordan said methane itself is not poisonous but can be deadly if it displaces oxygen in an enclosed space, or if it reaches a proper mixture with air to become explosive.