The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced the release of a Request for Proposals to solicit independent researchers to conduct the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study.
The purpose of the Health Study is to evaluate the short and long-term health impacts of the 2015-2016 Aliso Canyon Disaster on people living in the surrounding communities. Public Health has been charged with facilitating the search for independent third-party researchers under the oversight of a Scientific Oversight Committee.
The gas blowout and disaster, the largest in the history of the United States, occurred six years ago at the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility located in the Santa Susana Mountains. More than 109,000 metric tons of methane gas was released into residential communities surrounding the facility for 111 days. Thousands of residents were displaced from their homes, schools were relocated, and many people reported illness and acute health symptoms during and following the disaster.
On Feb. 29, 2019, the County of Los Angeles, County Counsel for the County of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles City Attorney, the California Attorney General, and the California Air Resources Board entered into a Consent Decree with SoCal Gas which secured $25 million to fund the Health Study. The planning of the RFP for this historic research study was informed by extensive community and scientific input and is ultimately seeking to provide additional insights on how the community’s physical, mental, behavioral, and social health has been impacted by this disaster.
“We look forward to engaging some of the best and brightest researchers in the nation in this process,” said Dr. Paul Simon, SOC member and Chief Science Officer for Public Health. “We are committed to selecting an independent research group with the broad but also highly specialized expertise needed to shed further light on the health impacts of this catastrophic environmental disaster.”
Since the blowout, Public Health has conducted numerous community outreach efforts and solicited input from the impacted communities through one-on-one conversations, neighborhood councils, a Community Advisory Group, a virtual Town Hall, website inquiries and comments, focus groups, opinion surveys, and a 6-week public comment period on the Health Study’s Draft Goals and Priorities. This input was fundamental in the development of the RFP under the guidance of the independent SOC. Once the researchers are selected, community input will continue to remain an essential part of the Health Study process.
“Input we received from directly impacted community members helped guide the development of the RFP for the Health Study” said Dr. Lisa McKenzie, SOC member and Assistant Research Professor at the Colorado School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “We hope that this call for independent researchers will lead to answers and additional insights for community residents who have been seeking more information about how this 2015 disaster may have impacted their health.”
After completing the vetting and RFP process, the aim is for the Health Study to commence by the fall of 2022.
“We’ve reached a significant milestone in the aftermath of the Alison Canyon gas leak,” stated Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “I’m committed to bringing forward objective information from experts that will shed light on the gas blowout’s impact to the community that was affected by it. After any disaster, we must commit ourselves to rolling up our sleeves to ensure individuals who need help get help – not just immediately afterwards, but also in the long run. Recruiting qualified researchers to perform this analysis is critical because their findings will inform what needs to be done to help the community at large. This is why the County is relying on the Scientific Oversight Committee, an independent group of experts, to advise this process and represent the health needs of the community. I am eager for the work to get started.”
The Health Study will be conducted by independent third-party researchers, under the guidance of the SOC, which is comprised of experts from six regulatory agencies and seven independent research experts. Once chosen, the researchers will provide regular updates to and receive guidance from the SOC until the completion of the study.
“It’s been years since the methane leak at Aliso Canyon was first discovered, yet many questions about its impact on community health still remain,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “After so many years of pain and uncertainty, it’s vitally important that the researchers who are selected to lead this critical study will answer those questions.”
For more information on the Aliso Canyon Disaster Health Research Study, and to access the RFP, please visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/eh/healthresearch/.