The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has ordered the Southern California Gas Co. to halt its cleanup of Porter Ranch-area homes following a months-long gas leak.
The stop-work order came late Sunday, two days after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge mandated the Gas Co. to clean up the homes of residents relocated because of the gas leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.
Public Health officials assigned environmental health specialists to observe the cleaning performed by SoCalGas contractors over the weekend and determined the cleaning did "not comply with the cleaning protocol," according to a statement issued by the agency.
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"Public health found that the contractor was neither equipped nor trained for proper cleaning as required by Public Health,'' the agency said.
In response, the Gas Co. said it will adhere to the Department of Public Health's proposed protocol and were working to address any issues.
"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," SoCalGas spokesman Chris Gilbride said.
The Gas Co. was directed to immediately discontinue cleaning and meet with county officials Monday to discuss resolving the deficiencies and ensure strict compliance with the court-ordered protocol. The court's decision required the Gas Co. to offer cleaning services to owners of as many as 2,500 homes.
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 it.
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.
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.
City News Service contributed to this report.