Local News

Thursday, Mar 20 2014 07:32 PM

Arvin homeowners still displaced by gas leak

BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

Eight Arvin homeowners remained in hotels and with family Thursday night as health officials said the leaking gas near their homes was still highly explosive.

According to the Kern County Fire Department, all eight homes are on Nelson Court just off Mahin Drive near Varsity Avenue. The neighborhood is near Arvin High School.

Matt Constantine, director of the Kern County Department of Public Health, said when samples were taken Tuesday after residents had complained of smells for several days, gas was detected. The levels increased as the houses got closer to Mahin.

One home had a reading of 53 percent flammable gas. The other had a 51 percent reading, Constantine said. The department responds whenever a 5 percent or higher reading occurs.

"If there was an ignition source there would be a concern of an explosion," Constantine said.

The pipeline is low-pressure and moves gas from one oil well lease to another. It is owned by Petro Capital Resources and runs beneath Varsity.

Advanced GeoEnvironmental Inc. will install vapor wells and ventilation equipment under the affected homes. Attached to each well will be a fan to assist in the removal of trapped vapor, which will vent 2 feet above the roof line.

The equipment will run continuously until homes are free of gas.

The work could take several days.

Monday, the levels of flammable gases allowed led officials to tell homeowners they could voluntarily evacuate. But by Tuesday the level of gas found was much higher, and officials issued a mandatory evacuation order.

"I believe the leak presented an imminent health risk and I know it still does," Constantine said.

PRC is paying for about three dozen evacuees to stay in hotels. In addition to people, a number of dogs, plus a goose, chicken and three birds were also evacuated.

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