Los Angeles County health officials Friday called for a thorough cleaning of household surfaces in Porter Ranch-area homes to rid them of metal contaminants that likely came from the Aliso Canyon gas leak and could cause minor health issues.

Porter Ranch during gas-leak emergency. Photo via scpr.org
But health officials said there is no reason relocated residents should not be able to move back to their homes.

According to the county Department of Public Health, environmental testing conducted in and around Porter Ranch homes determined there were no airborne contaminants in the homes, but 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.

“These metals do not pose long-term health risks but can cause respiratory and skin irritation and could be contributing to symptoms reported by residents,” according to health officials.

Health officials revealed the testing results to residents at a community meeting Thursday night.

In response to the results, the agency today recommended a “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.

Health officials posted cleaning guidelines of the department’s website.

The health department also issued a directive calling on Southern California Gas Co. to pay for the cleaning of residents’ homes.

“This would include not only persons who live in the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council area, but any person who received relocation services as a result of this event,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.

Health concerns stemming from the Porter Ranch gas leak, which began Oct. 23 and was capped Feb. 18, prompted thousands of residents to move into temporary housing out of the area at the expense of Southern California Gas Co.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge last month ordered the Gas Co. to continue funding the temporary housing program until at least June 7. The Gas Co. has been pushing to end the program, saying there are no lingering health problems stemming from the leak. Company attorneys also said the utility was paying about $1.8 million a day to fund housing for the roughly 2,600 relocated residents.

Attorneys for Los Angeles County and the city argued that more thorough testing was needed to ensure residents will be safe when they return home. County health officials said earlier they had received about 300 complaints from Porter Ranch residents who returned to their homes and claimed to have developed more health problems.

The complaints included nausea, stomach aches and respiratory irritation.

Gunzenhauser said today that based on the testing results, residents should be able to safely return to their homes without fear of health problems.

Health officials noted, however, that residents still living in temporary housing may want to have their homes thoroughly cleaned before they return, and the county will work with the Gas Co. to determine how long that process will take and whether an additional extension of the relocation program might be needed.

SoCalGas officials said the county’s study clearly shows there is no need for residents to remain in temporary housing, with the results showing “no levels of concern.”

“The data confirms what thousands of outdoor air samples have already demonstrated: 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,” according to the Gas Co. “This data finally provides residents with the additional support they have been looking for. There is no risk to public health related to the leak in the community. It is time for the residents who chose to remain relocated to exit the relocation program, and for the community as a whole to return to normal.”

Gunzenhauser said the county tested 1,100 homes and two schools in the Porter Ranch area, and the results were compared to 11 homes tested outside the area as a baseline.

— City News Service

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