The Bakersfield oil company which owns the leaking pipeline that forced the evacuation of eight Arvin homes in March told evacuees Tuesday it will stop paying for their temporary housing after Nov. 30.
The company's decision came less than a week after Kern County officials lifted the mandatory evacuation Oct. 31, deeming the homes no longer endangered by explosive levels of gas.
The estimated three dozen residents have been displaced since March 18 and Petro Capital Resources LLC -- which owns the pipeline under Arvin's Varsity Avenue -- has provided temporary housing in hotels and apartments in the interim.
PCR has also provided travel expenses for the residents to commute between their Bakersfield temporary housing and Arvin homes, work and school.
Each of the evacuated families who lived on Nelson Court was hand delivered a letter Tuesday from PCR, explaining the company's decision. It was signed by PCR Production Manager Jeff Williams.
The displaced residents are concerned whether the gas leak may have saturated the homes and yards with toxins that could affect their health, rather than flammability issues.
PCR did hire a company to conduct a human health risk assessment in the neighborhood, which deemed it safe for reoccupancy.
"In light of testing PCR did and the fire department's letter (lifting the ban), PCR decided that while they will continue offering security at the homes, they will end providing the funding," said Larry Pickett, spokesman for PCR.
The families wanted a second opinion from an independent source paid for by the county. The county agreed and hired an outside company, but that testing has not finished.
Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez said Wednesday she hoped the testing would be completed by the end of the month.
Despite residents' ongoing health concerns, the county will not pay for the evacuees' temporary housing because the evacuation mandate has been lifted.
"The county has no obligation to pay for housing," said Perez. "Nor is that on the table."
But, if the residents do not want to go home until testing is complete, Perez vowed to raise money for them to stay in temporary housing.
"I have said I will not let them be homeless," Perez said. "I will go out and raise money, but the county will not be involved that.
"I wouldn't take my son back there until I was sure."
Even before March's mandatory evacuation, residents had complained of headaches and nosebleeds for up to two years prior the discovery of the pipeline leak. It's unknown how long the line was leaking.
After more than seven months living outside their homes, residents said their symptoms have stopped.
Yesenia Lara, an evacuee, said her family does not want to go home without reassurance that it is safe.
"(Without support) we would not have a choice though," Lara said.