After a mandatory evacuation of eight homes near Nelson Court and Mahin Drive in Arvin due to a gas leak, it is still not clear when the residents will be able to return to their homes.

Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

After eight months of delay, state and county agencies are inching closer to confirming that the homes of eight Arvin families are free of toxic gases and safe to live in.

The homes were evacuated March 18 because of a leak from an oil company's gas line that runs under Varsity Avenue.

A contractor hired by Kern County recently completed preliminary reports that searched for toxic gases and sought to identify any health risks that may remain in the evacuated Nelson Court homes.

The contractor is expected to submit a final report in coming days, said Steven Bohlen, head of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

The county-funded tests came after Petro Capital Resources LLC, the company that owns the leaky gas line, performed its own human health risk assessment. PCR determined the homes were safe for residents to return.

But the approximately three dozen evacuees demanded the county conduct its own independent study. The preliminary results of that testing, paid for by the county, were provided to local and state government agencies for review.

The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and DOGGR must approve the test results before the homes are deemed safe.

"After review, the county and state agencies will inform the impacted residents of the results," said Bohlen.

Before the leak was discovered, residents complained of headaches and nosebleeds. It's unknown how long the line was leaking. The pipeline has been shut down since the leak was found.

PCR has been paying for the evacuees' temporary housing in apartments and hotels while their homes are undergoing testing.

"Our understanding is that PCR has agreed to provide (temporary housing) to the impacted residents through Dec. 7," said Bohlen.

Efforts to contact PCR representatives were unsuccessful.

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