SMS LAW GROUP LLP., which was represented at the hearing by Mr. Arash Sarbaz, Esq., reports that, on Friday May 20, 2016, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Wiley made a ruling, which requires the Southern California Gas Company to offer cleaning services to thousands of homes affected by the Porter Ranch gas leak, after which residents will have 48 hours to move back home. The Court ordered the cleaning to be done at the expense of SoCalGas.
The Judge’s order paves the way for an end to the relocation program that has been in place for months in response to the gas leak, which reportedly started on October 23 at the Aliso Canyon facility. SoCalGas has been paying for the relocation of thousands of residents who left their homes in fear of adverse health consequences prompted by the gas leak.
The Judge’s ruling also requires SoCalGas to continue paying hotel and other relocation costs for families until their homes are cleaned. For those people in hotels or other temporary housing being paid on a daily basis the deadline to request the house cleaning is May 25, 2016 at 5:00 p.m., for all others the deadline in May 27, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. Relocation benefits will expire within 48 hours of the respective deadlines for those that do not choose to have their house cleaned or from when the residents decline the service, whichever occurs first. For those that choose the cleaning, SoCalGas will facilitate a reservation system including an online system. Once the home is cleaned, the relocation benefits will end for that particular resident in 48 hours.
“This was a victory for LA County and the residents of Porter Ranch. They deserve to have clean homes free of chemicals and metals,” said attorney Arash Sarbaz, whose firm SMS Law Group, LLP represents dozens of plaintiffs suing SoCal Gas over the leak and its adverse effects on their health and economic losses.
SoCal Gas had argued to have the relocation program end this weekend without an order to clean homes. However, the Judge stated that SoCal Gas had created the nuisance of the well blowout — and the dust and smells that penetrated homes afterward. “Because it created the nuisance, SoCal Gas must bear the cost […] until residents are safely home,” Wiley wrote in his ruling. He also said that prospective homebuyers would be wary of purchasing a home that had not undergone a post-leak cleaning.
The blown-out well, known as SS-25 was an oil well drilled in 1953. When the oil field was depleted, that well and others were converted in the 1970s for use to inject and withdraw natural gas from an underground reservoir about 9,000 feet deep. The well spewed methane, smelly chemicals called mercapatans and other materials for about four months. Homes in the area were spotted with an oily residue. Even after the leak was reportedly capped, residents continued to report ailments they blamed on the gas leak. County testing inside a number of Porter Ranch homes this spring turned up small amounts of metals that are often used in oil and gas operations, like barium sulfate. County officials said those metals aren’t normally found in household dust and could be the cause of ongoing ailments reported by many residents who have returned to Porter Ranch. The metals matched those found in mud around the site of the broken well. Some of the metals are found in muds used during well drilling and in the muds and heavy fluids forced down wells to stop leaks.
The Public Health Department has established a protocol that calls for the cleaning of air ducts and upholstered furniture, among other steps. Public health officials have recommended the cleaning be done by professionals to assure it is done correctly and to spare sensitive residents any continued exposure to the low levels of metals in the dust.
At SMS Law Group, LLP our lawyers are dedicated to helping the residents of Porter Ranch, Northridge, Chatsworth and Granada Hills affected by the gas leak by providing personalized attorney representation.