Local News

Monday, Mar 31 2014 05:05 PM

Company puts up Arvin evacuees in apartments

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    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    Rubi Garcia, who is six months pregnant, is among those displaced by the Arvin gas leak. She attended a community meeting Friday night, held primarily to address the gas leak that has displaced several families.

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    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    Gustavo Aguirre, director of organizing for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, addresses Arvin residents assembled for a community meeting Friday night, primarily to discuss the gas leak.

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    By John Harte / Special to The Californian

    Francisco Gonzalez and Cecelia Florez, who live across from homes evacuated by the Arvin gas leak, came to the community meeting Friday night looking for information. They say the gas odor permeates their home and are they concerned for their health and the health of family members living with them.

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BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

Some of the approximately three dozen residents who have been evacuated for nearly two weeks due to a toxic gas leak in Arvin have been temporarily moved into apartments, paid for by Petro Capital Resources LLC.

The eight Arvin homes on Nelson Court were evacuated March 18 when gas from a pipeline, owned by PCR since 2012, leaked into the soil and eventually polluted the air within the houses. 

Family members of Elvia Garcia, who live on Nelson Court, said they are staying at Golden Valley Luxury Apartments, on Hosking Avenue in Bakersfield, which were furnished by PCR. The furnishings include beds, couches and pots and pans.They said PCR told them they were unsure how long they would be staying in the apartments.

Prior to renting the apartments, PCR had been paying for some of the displaced residents to stay at the Residence Inn Bakersfield.

Nelson Court residents said the $50 per day, per person PCR had been offering evacuees for living expenses has been revoked, according to the Garcias.

According to a news release sent out by PCR, the families have been given an undisclosed lump sum of cash while it determines the need for a daily allowance. The utilities for the apartments are also paid.

Three families have been relocated into the apartments and PCR expects one or two more to move in shortly. Some residents have chosen to find housing of their own.

The pipeline that leaked has been shut down; it remains unclear how long it has been leaking.

Arvin’s leak was discovered March 12 by Southern California Gas Co. but emergency crews did not know it had leaked into the homes until March 17.

Officials say the pipeline that runs down Varsity Avenue is about a half-mile long and is a low-pressure transfer pipeline that carries gas associated with oil production from one oil field to another. The gas is not sold by PCR and has no commercial value.

An air sample taken by the Arvin Bucket Brigade at Garcia’s home found more than 20 toxins inside, including methane, benzene, n-hexane, heptane and n-octane.

The Garcia family moved into their new three-bedroom apartment Saturday.

Nelson Court residents have complained of nosebleeds, headaches, coughs and fainting. They fear it is due to the toxins they smelled for years.

The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has no record of the pipeline, which is more than 40 years old, ever being tested for leaks.

DOGGR only requires lines that are 4 inches in diameter or larger be tested for leaks. The Arvin pipeline is 3 inches in diameter.

Additionally, there are no federal regulations in place that apply to this type of pipeline. Meaning there are no laws mandating this pipeline be regularly tested.

PCR Production Manager Jeff Williams has said he could not say why the pipeline leak went unnoticed for so long.

When PCR bought the lease no map was provided and the owners were told the line ran south, according to DOGGR officials. Once the leak occurred, PCR learned that the line actually ran north.

Advanced GeoEnvironmental Inc., a private company hired by PCR, and Kern County Environmental Health Services are continuing to monitor the flammable vapors in the homes, according to a Kern County Fire Department news release.

A new set of canisters were installed Monday morning that take air samples and will be tested Tuesday.

Installation of the primary vapor extraction system is ongoing and will be completed by the middle to end of next week. In the meantime, a temporary home remediation system is in place and continues to dissipate trapped gas in the soil.

Advanced GeoEnvironmental Inc. will continue to collect soil samples and work on remediation near the properties along Varsity Avenue.

The cause of the leak is unknown but will be investigated.

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