LOS ANGELES (CNS) — At least one family returning to Porter Ranch following the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak found oily petroleum residue inside their home, a county health official said Tuesday, March 1.
“The Southern California Gas Company needs to be responsible for this and needs to clean this up when it’s found in people’s properties,” said Cynthia Harding, the interim director of the Department of Public Health.
Being around the petroleum component doesn’t pose any health hazards, Harding said, but touching it can cause a rash.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich said children would be sure to touch it, and once again chastised the utility for its response to the gas leak.
“They have been the most irresponsible quasi-public agency that I have ever encountered,” Antonovich said. “It’s just one road block after the other.”
Harding said she notified the utility of the problem last week after getting a call from the family and would follow up.
The oily residue had been reported outside months ago, leading SoCalGas to install screens over the natural gas well as they worked to fix the leak.
The leak has now been capped, but county officials have been in a legal wrangle over the deadline for residents to return to Porter Ranch.
That deadline was extended to March 18 by order of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle, who was prompted by the county, led by Antonovich.
The utility has appealed the decision, arguing it is contrary to scientific evidence showing there is no health threat to residents from the leak, which began Oct. 23 and was cut off on Feb. 11, and officially declared capped Feb. 18.
“Our decision to file an appeal recognizes the substantial, public body of scientific data from local, independent air quality and health agencies that have demonstrated that the air quality in the area has never posed any long-term health risk, and that the air has now returned to the typical air quality levels that existed prior to the leak,” according to the utility.
“These health agencies say that with the leak gone, related symptoms should be gone. Air quality levels in and around Porter Ranch are consistent with levels before the leak occurred.”
The Gas Co. also said it is paying as much as $2 million a day to house roughly 3,400 displaced residents.
Attorneys for the county, however, argued that some residents who have already returned home after the capping of the leak are still reporting health issues, and more time should be allowed so additional air monitoring can be completed to ensure there is no lingering risk.
Gas Co. officials said last week that 2,081 households had already checked out of their temporary housing and returned home. As of mid-February, more than 4,600 households were in temporary homes, according to SoCalGas.
The gas leak from the Aliso Canyon storage facility spewed more than 100,000 tons of methane into the air, making it the largest methane leak in U.S. history, according to a study released last week by UC Davis and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The study found that the daily amount of methane leaked between Oct. 23 and Feb. 11 was enough to fill a balloon the size of the Rose Bowl.