LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles County and Southern California Gas Co. continue to battle over a possible end to court-ordered relocation services for Porter Ranch residents affected by the Aliso Canyon gas leak.
The utility announced it had reached common ground with the county, saying the parties submitted a joint statement to a Superior Court judge asking that the preliminary injunction requiring ongoing relocation services be dissolved effective 5 p.m. on Friday, May 20.
However, county Supervisor Michael Antonovich disputed that characterization.
“SoCalGas has deliberately lied in stating that the county entered into an agreement with them to end the relocation program for those displaced by the Aliso Canyon gas leak,” Antonovich said. “No such agreement exists.”
Instead, county officials will head to court Friday “to seek an order requiring SoCalGas to pay for professional interior cleaning of homes prior to relocated residents returning home,” he said.
Gas Co. officials flatly denied any lying in relation to the agreement, and provided a copy of the memo filed with the court. The document is titled “Joint Statement Regarding Termination of Relocation Program” and states that both parties “agree that the preliminary injunction regarding the temporary relocation plan should be dissolved by the court effective 5 p.m. on Friday, May 20, 2016. However, the County and SoCalGas dispute how the temporary relocation plan should be concluded.”
Officials with SoCalGas — which is footing the bill for residents’ temporary housing — have proposed that residents return home by the end of this weekend, while the county counters that the utility should first clean the inside of residents’ homes and give them another five days after the clean-up to move in. Residents not interested in the cleaning would have until May 27 to move home under the county’s proposal, according to Antonovich.
According to SoCalGas, the parties agreed to terminate relocation services after the county Department of Public Health’s indoor sampling program for 250 substances showed no contaminant levels posing a long-term health risk.
“The data confirms what thousand of outdoor air samples have already demonstrated,” according to a statement by SoCalGas. “There is no risk to public health related to the leak and it is, and has been, safe for residents who chose to relocate to return home.”
DPH officials agreed there were no airborne contaminants in the homes, but said surface dust “contained low levels of metal contaminants” that are consistent with those found in “well-drilling fluid,” suggesting they came from the Aliso Canyon leak.
County health officials have said the metal contaminants do not pose long-term health risks but can cause respiratory and skin irritation and could be contributing to some of the symptoms that have been reported by residents.
They recommended comprehensive cleaning of household surfaces, thorough ventilation of homes to flush out contaminants, regular replacement of heating and air-conditioning filters and proper maintenance of air purifiers.
Antonovich accused the utility of misrepresenting its position to the court.
“Previously, SoCalGas informed the judge that they would offer to clean residents’ homes, and that it was reasonable to perform the cleaning prior to residents returning home,” Antonovich said. “Now, SoCalGas is objecting to cleaning people’s homes and requires people to return home within 48 hours. This is unacceptable.”
In the joint memo submitted the court, SoCalGas contends that “no interior cleaning is necessary for residents to safely return home,” and it asks that a judge review the competing timeline proposals and make a final decision.