by Mike Reicher | Los Angeles Daily News

He listened for hissing or rumbling nearly 2 miles below the earth, easing his microphone down the natural gas well known as SS 25. Mitch Findlay heard something that caught his attention.

Findlay, the owner of a leak-detection company, was testing the well for his client, the Southern California Gas Co. It was November 1991, nearly 25 years before the well above Porter Ranch ruptured and spewed roughly 94,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere.

It was a “distant noise,” Findlay noted in the typewritten log filed with state regulators. But the thermometer attached to the mic didn’t sense any dramatic cooling — a good sign.

But annual temperature surveys and the occasional noise test gave an incomplete picture of the well’s integrity, he and other experts say. Another common way to detect leaks, a pressure test, was performed on the well just twice since 1989, according to state records.

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