Local News

Tuesday, May 06 2014 10:15 PM

Arvin still in the dark about leaking gas line

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Public relations specialist Larry Pickett spoke on behalf of PCR at the Arvin City Council meeting Tuesday about the company's pipeline that was found leaking in March, causing the evacuation of more than three dozen people from their homes. They are still displaced.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine addressed the Arvin City Council May 7 on the issue of the gas leak near Varsity Avenue and helped clear up questions from residents. Kern County 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez is at lower left.

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  3. 3 of 5

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Arvin residents listen intensely as a representative from PCR speaks to the Arvin City Council about the work being done to fix the gas leak problem and to get families back in their homes.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Andy Lara,right, listens May 7 as a PCR spokesman told the Arvin City Council that the company is keeping displaced families updated on the gas leak situation in his neighborhood on Nelson Court. Lara would later tell the council the families have not been given any updates.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    The Arvin City Council watches a power point presentation on the Varsity Avenue gas leak situation on May 6. From left are councilman Steven Ojeda, councilman Jose Gurrola (foreground), Mayor Jose Flores and councilwoman Lupe Vasquez.

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BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

ARVIN -- Arvin City Council members and Mayor Jose Flores fired questions Tuesday at a Petro Capital Resources LLC's spokesman on the safety of residents who were forced to evacuate due to a gas leak and were left without answers.

Residents themselves were not allowed to directly ask questions to PCR.

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It has been determined that there were no state or federal regulations in place for mandatory testing of the line because it is less than 4 inches in diameter and is not a gathering, transition of production line.

The flare waste gas pipeline carries gas from one oil field to another where it will be eventually flared off.

On March 11, Southern California Gas Co. was performing routine checks for leaks on the Arvin natural gas line it has owned since 1994 when instruments detected PCR's leak. Workers realized March 12 the leak wasn't from their own pipeline and notified the city of Arvin.

A presentation by Kern County officials and PCR discussed the leak -- which has left more than three dozen people displaced for more than a month -- at the City Council meeting.

Eight homes on Nelson Court were evacuated March 18 following the leak from the pipeline, which is owned by PCR.

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez said county officials came to the meeting expecting to see the results of PCR's sampling near the gas leak.

PCR spokesman Larry Pickett said the company is not going to release the results until it has a comprehensive study.

Perez said the county does not own the sample results and therefore cannot release them. She anticipated PCR would release them Tuesday and called residents saying they would.

"We fully expected the data would be released this evening," Perez said Tuesday. "We are very disappointed."

Perez said after learning of this, the county was prepared to release what it had even if it is incomplete data, and that she was calling on PCR to release its results and test all homes on Nelson Court for gas levels.

The presentation discussed the timeline of the leak's discovery and how remediation efforts have progressed.

Since the evacuations, problems have persisted.

Flores said that despite PCR paying for security to be on site 24/7, one of the evacuated homes was burglarized.

A pool table was stolen and lifted over a barrier, even with a security guard present.

Flores complained to Pickett that the theft of something as large as he pool table must have taken at least 30 minutes, and the security company is paid for by PCR.

A presentation by Vicky Furnish, of Kern County Environmental Health, said the county has asked PCR to provide a reoccupancy plan that must be approved by the county, the city and residents. Kern also plans to mandate regular sampling results be released to the residents.

The leaking line, a 3-inch, half-mile flare waste gas pipeline in a neighborhood a few blocks from Arvin High School, is thought to be about 40 years old. It was discovered in March to have been leaking for as long as two years.

Flores told residents his main concern is how long has the gas been leaking and what kind of damage has been done to the families in the area.

Other concerns included whether the food in the homes had been contaminated and the impact on the other homes on Nelson Court.

Arvin City Councilman Jose Gurrola lives on Nelson Court and was not evacuated. He said his fellow residents were concerned about the safety of their homes because they are only feet away from the ones that were evacuated.

Gurrola said public records requests have been sent to the county about the air samples taken in the neighborhood, but the county simply did not have all of the results from PCR.

One of the evacuees who spoke at the meeting was Andy Lara. He said he was most concerned about the investigation and whether all agencies involved in testing are being transparent about the air sample results.

"I don't want to bring my kids back to this house unless they can assure me my kids are safe," he said.

Another concerns brought up at the meeting is property value.

One sample in an evacuee's home found toxic gas levels 13 times higher than levels deemed safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As of Tuesday, PCR was still paying for some residents to stay at the Golden Valley Luxury Apartments on Hosking Avenue in Bakersfield.

Councilman Steven Ojeda asked Pickett, "Are these people going to be able to be in their home for Christmas?"

"I can't answer that question," Pickett said.

PCR representatives continue to say they do not know when the evacuees will be home because the company is concerned for their safety.

But Flores, the mayor, will hold a special meeting Monday to consider a resolution asking PCR to release its air sample data from the gas leak site to the city, the council and public.

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