LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles residents displaced by a massive, 15-week natural gas leak will have more time to return to their homes once the well is plugged, under an agreement announced Monday between city officials and Southern California Gas Co.
The deal will give residents up to eight days to move back to the Porter Ranch area, rather than 48 hours, the utility and City Attorney Mike Feuer said in separate statements.
"This agreement will help residents resume their daily routines on schedules that work best for them," Feuer said.
The leak from a deep well at an underground gas storage facility was detected in October.
The utility said Monday that a relief well designed to intercept the leaking one has now reached a depth of about 8,600 feet and is within 20 feet of its target, though as drillers get closer they'll need to slow down for precision, spokesman Chris Gilbride said in a statement. The utility expects to have it plugged by the end of February.
Nearly 5,700 households have been relocated since December. Many residents complained about headaches, nosebleeds, nausea and other symptoms.
Public health officials blame those symptoms on the odorant added to the gas and say they don't expect long-term health effects
The deal would allow the company to stop paying for short-term housing such as hotels eight days and seven nights after the state declares the well permanently sealed.
SoCalGas will also pay rent and costs such as utilities and gardening services for the remainder of a lease term for temporary housing. In addition, residents will receive reimbursements for moving and travel expenses associated with their relocations.
"We are glad to offer additional time to help make relocated residents' transitions back home smoother," said Gillian Wright, vice president of customer services for SoCalGas.