Attorneys for gas leak residents ask for another extension before returning home

- City and county attorneys plan to ask a judge Friday for another extension of the deadline for displaced Porter Ranch residents to return to their homes following the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak, even though the Southern California Gas Co. has already given residents an extra three days, until Monday.

In advance of the hearing, SoCalGas Thursday released the results of indoor air-quality screening tests conducted at a sampling of Porter Ranch homes. Company executives said the tests found methane levels in the normal range and no evidence of odorants that might cause health issues.

"Consistent with the thousands of air quality samples that have been collected outdoors, our indoor screening found that methane levels inside homes were within normal ranges, and any odorants that could be responsible for short-term symptoms were not detected at all," said Gillian Wright, SoCalGas vice president for customer services.

"We recognize that some residents, particularly those staying in temporary housing, had questions about indoor air quality, and we hope this expert screening provides reassurance to the residents of communities near
Aliso Canyon."

The tests were conducted by a private contractor inside 70 homes throughout Porter Ranch, according to the Gas Co. The results are likely to play a featured role in court this morning, when attorneys for the city and
county of Los Angeles ask a judge to require the Gas Co. to continue paying for temporary housing for Porter Ranch residents beyond the deadline it has set.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said that with additional environmental testing continuing and residents still complaining about health issues, his office will ask for an extension of the temporary housing program.

"We'll be working with the county on that," he said.

Attorneys for county health officials, who are in the midst of conducting door-to-door inspections of Porter Ranch-area homes, are also expected to ask for an extension. Angelo Bellomo, deputy director for health protection at the county Department of Public Health, told KPCC radio that the agency will ask for an extension of "at least several more weeks." A judge last month extended the deadline for displaced residents to move back to their own homes to today after county attorneys argued that the eight days initially granted after the capping of the leak was too little time, particularly since some residents were still reporting health problems after
moving back.

County health officials said last week their department has received about 300 complaints from people who have either returned or tried to return home and reported they are again experiencing health issues.

The complaints -- including nausea, stomach aches and respiratory irritation -- prompted the county to begin door-to-door visits in hopes of understanding why symptoms were still being reported.

Concurrent with that effort, SoCalGas crews have been visiting homes closest to Aliso Canyon to determine if they need cleaning, since some residents have reported finding black or brown oily residue. SoCalGas also
dispatched cleaning crews to public parks, school and community playgrounds.

SoCalGas announced Wednesday that despite today's moving deadline, it will give residents until Monday to return to their homes before cutting off funding for the temporary housing, giving them the weekend to relocate.

The gas leak was first detected Oct. 23. It was unofficially stopped on Feb. 11, thanks to the digging of a lengthy relief well, and formally declared sealed on Feb. 18. That announcement started the clock ticking on the then-
eight-day deadline for residents to return to their homes before SoCalGas ended funding for temporary housing.

A judge, however, extended that deadline to Friday, which SoCalGas has now extended to Monday.

The company has objected to lengthy extensions of the moving deadline. 

In court last month, the company argued that it was paying as much as $2million a day to house roughly 3,400 displaced residents.

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