UPDATED: Possible Toxic Gas Leak Reported at JPL

Firefighters find no leak of a hazardous form of arsenic.

UPDATE, Saturday, Aug. 18, 8:26 a.m.: LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE (CNS) - Firefighters alerted to a possible chemical leak at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge were unable to locate one Saturday.

Los Angeles County Firefighters responded to the JPL campus around 1:30 a.m. to assist the JPL Fire Department in investigating the reported leak, county fire dispatcher Ed Pickett said.

A JPL security officer said no evidence of a leak was found. He declined to say what prompted the leak investigation.

According to ABC7, a leak of arsine gas -- a potentially lethal form of arsenic -- was indicated.

PREVIOUSLY: A highly-toxic gas may have been accidentally released inside a room at the , 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Saturday morning.

Firefighters from station 82 in La Canada, as well as a hazmat crew from Burbank, were on scene some time after 1 a.m. after the possible leak of Arsine was reported in room 302, according to scanner reports.

It is unknown at this time how much may have been released, or how widespread it could be. It is unknown if evacuations were called because of the arsine leak. Fire fighters report no injuries.

This story will continue to be updated as information becomes available.

Nicole Charky August 18, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Thank you for reporting this, Aaron.
Lily Chin August 18, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Aaron, I called LC sheriff station to inquire last night at 3;30. They said they didn't know anything about it. Ate they keeping it under the radar so no one freaks out. Was there or was there not a leak or arsine fumes? Should I take my fam. Out for a beach day and leave la Canada? Would love a definite report on the incident. Thanks. Lily
James Stoker August 18, 2012 at 06:07 PM
This issue has come up at the LCF Public Safety Commission in the past: How wil JPL handle incidents on lab that impact the community? Will the city be notified? Will the residents be notified? Arsine gas is an extremely dangerous and extremely deadly substance once considered for use as a chemical warfare agent. Though I slept within 200 yards of JPL last night, I received no reverse 911 call warning of the hazard, nor heard any Sherriff's warning us to prepare for evacuation. So the question is how long will JPL be allowed to continue to put the lives of nearby residents in danger? And who thought it was a good idea to be using such deadly substances in a densly populated area? Which is more important, the secrecy of government projects or the safety of our citizens? I smell a coverup!
SteveB August 18, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Perhaps you received no warning because no leak was found? maybe it was a false alarm? Natural gas is a deadly substance used in densely populated areas. Should we stop using natural gas? from wikipedia, arsine gas has microelectronics applications, "used in the synthesis of semiconducting materials related to microelectronics and solid-state lasers". Sounds like something a NASA facility would naturally use for some if its work.
Lorraine Pozniak August 18, 2012 at 09:36 PM
If it's nothing, then why am I having trouble breathing, with a burning in my throat? A friend just visited from out of town and even she said it smells like chemicals up here in Altadena...
blah August 18, 2012 at 10:18 PM
maybe pusdad ate to many gas produceing foods??
AJ August 19, 2012 at 02:58 AM
All the conspiracy theorists should chill out. It was a false alarm. I'm sure they regret any concern they may have caused, but JPL has come along way from the early days and materials at the lab are much more carefully handled and regulated. If you're smelling weird things and having trouble breathing, please go visit a doctor or check your own household gasline or household chemicals. Or it could maybe be your neighbors enjoying some recreational weed. This is Altadena afterall.
Sam Burgess August 19, 2012 at 04:36 AM
It's a cover-up I tell you--A cover-up!! The commie Ruskees are obviously & secretly running a poisonous pipe line across the ocean, under Sarah Palins kitchen window & then (underground) straight to JPL!!! Why, you ask? Think about the obvious!!! They take out our most advanced scientists, which in turn causes our beloved fellow AMERICANS (God show favor upon them) to concern themselves with this pseudo global-warming thing, which in turn creates a lack of interest in the Ayn Rand greed is good (and it is) religion and then..The Obvious!... the Ruskees rush in & take over our beloved........ And who is behind this cover up--this secrecy!!? Well, obviously, it is Ruskee apologists who would disagree with those who have nothing better to do with their lives but find conspiracy in any and all things not immediately understood.
not Carl Peterson lll August 19, 2012 at 05:57 AM
oh Sam, sam, sam..... Space aliens actually crashed at JPL. They where trying to contact the original beings holed up in the center of the earth. They plan the take over soon. You know..2012. The mayans knew this because they are from mars. With a thick accent, everyone thought they said mayans instead of martians. Now that we have better equipment on Maya (Mars), they need to take over now, starting with JPL. However, if you pit on a triangular bar shaped aluminum hat they can't see you. nano-nano
James Stoker August 19, 2012 at 01:47 PM
My initial comment was simply a call for JPL to act as a good neighbor and obey the requirements of Federal regulations under which they operate. If the threat was serious enough to call out hazmat units it was serious enough to warrant notifying the public. And no, this isn't as innocuous as natural gas. If you can smell arsine you are probably already close to lethal exposure. It only takes 20 or 30 parts per million.
not Carl Peterson lll August 19, 2012 at 08:12 PM
James, Your point was serious and valid. By the time I was done reading the thread,your original statement was taken over by late night humor. Mt comments had no real link to you, or directed toward you.
Stuart Clark August 19, 2012 at 10:17 PM
OK, but as a practical matter, what would you do if someone called and said there was a small leak of arsine gas at JPL? According to Wiki, at ~25ppm, a lethal exposure is about 30 minutes. Also, this gas is 2.5 times deanser that air which makes natural tansport of this gas from JPL to your house extremely unlikely unless you live at the bottom of the Arroyo. The real hazards would be to any JPL workers that were in the immediate vicinity.
Gary Edwards August 20, 2012 at 04:36 AM
sorry all. gas leak was on my "end". had a can of beans for dinner.
James Stoker August 20, 2012 at 05:59 PM
If notified the public could be alerted as to what signs and symptoms to look for -- being heavier than air, this gas could move to and concentrate in any low lying area surrounding the lab. Notice that there are many things we don't know (and will likely never know) about this incident: 1) How much if any arsine gas was released. 2) Where on the lab the release took place (parts of the lab are above my house, and parts below...) 3) How much time elapsed between the release and the call for or completeion of work by hazmat units. (I'm betting it was more than 30 minutes...) 4) What steps will be taken to make certain no such release occurs in the future. I was at Caltech during the Whiitier narrows earthquake. A potential flourine gas leak after the quake forced immediate establishment of a safety perimeter and notification of both Caltech personnel and nearby neighbors. News reports and comments appearing here make it seem doubtful that any public notifications took place -- even the Sherriff's Department was in the dark. At Public Safety Commission meetings JPL representatives assured the community that detailed safety plans were in place which included notification of the public. Perhaps these plans were not followed? There are both human and animal populations immediately adjacent downhill/downwind from JPL -- LACFD Camp 2, the Flintridge Riding Academy, and the Rose Bowl Riders facility and large numbers of school students during the day.
Bill Barlen August 21, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I have worked with arsine and arsine mixtutes for almost 50 years. It is unlikely that JPL uses pure arsine. In clinders of mixtures the danger would be inside I.e. the storage area. Once ouside the dilution effect would reduce the concentration in the venting plume that even the best detection instrumentation could probabky not detecg anythig at points as close as 100 yards.


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