Arvin residents questioned state officials Saturday on the potential of another toxic gas leak occurring in Kern County, such as the one that caused the evacuation of about three dozen people.
A public meeting was held at 10 a.m. in the Arvin Veteran's Hall, at 414 4th Ave., after officials told the evacuees on Friday night that test results showed the homes were safe.
The residents from eight Nelson Court homes had been evacuated since March 18, when high levels of toxic gas from an oil company's pipeline were found in the homes.
Discussion at the meeting stemmed from the soil and air samples taken in and around the homes.
Several residents raised questions about whether anyone would be fined as a result the pipeline's leak.
While Steven Bohlen, state oil and gas supervisor for the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, told them he had the ability to issue civil fines to oil companies, the agency was currently focusing on other aspects of the incident.
Bohlen said the first priority for DOGGR was "the health and safety" of residents.
DOGGR reviewed the samples, paid for by Kern County, after Petro Capital Resources LLC, the company that owns the leaky gas line, performed its own human health risk assessment.
PCR had determined the homes were safe, but the residents wanted a second opinion.
Arvin Mayor Jose Flores questioned Bohlen about whether each resident could receive certification that the homes are safe to live in.
It is the county's responsibility to certify that they are safe, Bohlen said.
But DOGGR could guarantee that the oil company has complied with everything it has been asked to do, he said.
Cesar Campos, of the Central California Environmental Justice Network, asked Bohlen during the meeting about the availability of pipeline maps.
"Can you say with confidence that I will be given the data (on pipeline locations) if I were to build a residence?" Campos said.
Bohlen told Campos that some of the lines are more than 30 years old and weren't always as well monitored as they are today. When they were built, GPS did not exist.
"I am absolutely certain and highly confident you would have access to (the maps)," said Bohlen. "The challenge is the accuracy of it. The data are not necessarily of the highest quality."
When PCR bought the lease for the leaky Arvin gas line in 2012, no map was provided. The company was told the line, believed to have been built in the 1970s, ran south, DOGGR officials have previously said. Once the leak occurred, PCR learned the line actually ran north.
Initially, the leak was discovered March 11, when Southern California Gas Co. was performing routine checks for leaks on its own natural gas line, when the instruments they were using detected PCR's leak. Workers realized March 12 the leak wasn't from their pipeline.
Because Southern California Gas Co. had previously done testing on its own line Aug. 9, 2013, the pipeline could not have been leaking for more than seven months. The date differed from what Bohlen orignally said on Friday.
Now that the Arvin homes have been deemed safe, DOGGR plans to review the pipeline management plans that oil companies currently have in place, Bohlen said. The oil companies would look at the current management plans and make sure they are modern and the company knows where all of its pipelines are.
While there is no mandated regulation to test the kind of line that leaked under Varsity Avenue, if there is a leak then it means the oil company's management plan has failed and there are possible penalties for that.
Also at the meeting were residents who live on the south side of Nelson Court who were not evacuated. They questioned why their homes had not been evacuated or had ongoing testing.
Kern County health officials have attempted to reassure them their homes were not in danger. Karen Riveles, an associate toxicologist for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment confirmed that the levels of gas on the south side of the road are not a danger.
"If I were living on Nelson Court, I would move back in today," said Bohlen. "I am very confident the homes are safe."