PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says it has ordered an immediate halt to the Southern California Gas Company’s clean-up of homes of Porter Ranch residents and as it planned to meet Monday with executives of the utility to remedy deficiencies in the company’s cleaning procedures.
SoCal Gas responded by expressing a commitment to comply with the procedures required by the Department of Public Health.
The Stop-Work order came late Sunday and pertained to a cleanup operation by SoCal Gas and its contractors at the homes of residents who were relocated because of the gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. The cleanup was mandated in a ruling Friday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Wiley.
Public Health assigned environmental health specialists to observe the cleaning performed by SoCal Gas contractors over the weekend, according to a statement issued by the agency.
“Public Health concluded that the remedial cleaning, implemented by SoCal Gas and their contractors, does not comply with the cleaning protocol” that had been agreed upon, according to the statement. “Public health found that the contractor was neither equipped nor trained for proper cleaning as required by Public Health,” the agency said.
Displaced Porter Ranch resident David Balen was visited by cleaners on Sunday. He said the work was an “absolute failure.”
Department of Public Health inspectors were present, and found the cleaning contractor was neither equipped nor trained to handle the job.
The deoartment directed SoCalGas to immediately discontinue cleaning and meet Monday with county officials to discuss resolving the deficiencies and ensure strict compliance with the court-ordered protocol.
In response, the Gas Co. said Monday morning that “the cleaning will be done according to the Department of Public Health’s proposed protocol. We are aware there were some issues raised by the Department of Health … and we are working to address any issues immediately.”
SoCalGas spokesman Chris Gilbride added: “We are committed to coordinating with the Department of Public Health as they continue to provide details about how they interpret their protocol and, together with the Department of Public Health and our contractors, we will coordinate to implement the cleaning process and avoid delays in completing the cleaning and returning people to their homes.”
Some Porter Ranch residents said they were visited by cleaners on Monday, despite the stop-work order.
Homeowner Sandy Crawford said she had canceled her cleaning appointment Sunday, but that workers still showed up Monday.
“They were ignoring the order,” she said. “They ignored the health department — the guidelines they were given … They showed up anyway because (SoCal Gas) wants to get this over with and they want everyone to move back home even though it’s not safe.” she said.
Crawford is concerned that her deadline for staying at a hotel at the expense of SoCal Gas is coming to a close this week.
Wiley, the judge presiding over Friday’s hearing, ruled that SoCal Gas must offer cleaning services to owners of as many as 2,500 homes as a condition of ending the housing relocation program.
Residents in hotels have until 5 p.m. on May 25 to request cleaning, and residents in housing other than hotels have until 5 p.m. May 27 to request cleaning.
Once homes are cleaned, the residents will have 48 hours to return under the ruling. Residents who do not request cleaning had 48 hours after those deadlines to return home.
But Crawford, whose 3-year-old child suffered nosebleeds the last time they attempted to return home, said she’s not ready to move back.
“Until this home is clean, I don’t feel safe,” she said. “I don’t feel safe for my kids.”
SoCal Gas said it contacted residents who had scheduled appointments for Monday to ask if they wished to continue with the cleaning despite the order.
Public Health announced last week that its environmental testing found no airborne contaminants, but surface dust contained “low levels of metal contaminants” consistent with those found in “well-drilling fluid,” suggesting they came from the Aliso Canyon gas leak that was discovered in October and capped Feb. 18. The finding prompted the cleanup operation.
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