(ANTIMEDIA) Porter Ranch, CA — On February 18, SoCalGas and the national media declared the “worst methane gas leak in U.S. history” permanently sealed, but just over a month later, hundreds of Porter Ranch residents who evacuated — and are now returning home — are suffering the same symptoms they suffered when the gas leak was active. They are experiencing nausea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, nosebleeds, and many, including children, are also experiencing a new ailment: irritated skin rashes across their bodies.
Neither SoCalGas, which owns the Aliso Canyon facility, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, nor any other government agency has provided a concrete explanation for these continued symptoms. In fact, one of Los Angeles County’s top medical officials recently told local physicians to refrain from performing tests to determine what is causing the symptoms. Late last week, preliminary lab tests from an independent UCLA study found evidence of benzene, a carcinogen, in at least two Porter Ranch homes. Benzene was reported to have been released in the 100 metric tons of methane that spewed into the Los Angeles basin for four months — a fact SoCalGas previously attempted to downplay and withhold.
Reemergence of Symptoms
On March 4, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitchell Englander issued a press release reporting the Department of Public Health had received at least 150 complaints of reemerging symptoms, including nosebleeds, dizziness headaches, nausea, and skin rashes. Now, the Health Department says it has received 300 complaints since residents began moving home after SoCalGas told them it was safe to do so.
Many residents have said the rashes, which can be extensive, are new and did not occur during the initial, months-long gas leak from October to February. During that time, thousands of families were evacuated and the Department of Public Health received 700 health complaints. Others reported experiencing skin irritation before they relocated, though it appears to be more widespread now.
Residents who left Porter Ranch for temporary housing accommodations and recently moved home told Anti-Media about their symptoms (many still have not moved home, fearful it is still unsafe). Helen Ritenour, a Porter Ranch resident who left the area in December, said that within two days of returning to their home, she and her family began feeling sick.
Gabriel Khanlian, a resident who serves as the Chief Technology Officer for Save Porter Ranch, a group formed in 2014 to fight the massive, aging, and leaking facility before the blowout even happened, also said he and his family have suffered symptoms since moving home.
“My daughter Tatiana keeps getting large rashes, red welts and bumps all over her body. Her skin is dry and her behavior has changed significantly and she is very cranky. She has a loss of appetite and is sleeping a lot more,” he said. “My sons, Jayden and Mason, have been getting bloody noses, headaches, upset stomachs, burning eyes, runny nose, dry skin.”
He described other troubles they’ve had, noting his sons are experiencing “anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, and stress from not having the ability to play. Their personalities have changed majorly.”
He said his wife, who experienced symptoms during the initial methane gas leak, is now experiencing them more severely than before.
Kyoko Habino, a Porter Ranch resident and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch, said:
“When I go home to pick up stuff or do a few things, within a few minutes, I start having a dull headache and coughing and having palpitations. Nosebleeds follow later on often. My partner has had headaches, fatigue, and a burning sensation in his chest at the same time I have. Our cat has had a nosebleed and vomited. When I am away from home, the headache goes away instantly. The cough and nosebleed stay for a while, and are gone after.”
Walter Arwood, a Porter Ranch resident, experienced nausea, among other symptoms:
“I am rolling over sick right now. My stomach has been so upset, I have gotten all the headaches back, my husband has had three nose bleeds in two days, and now a visiting relative was out of breath just walking up the stairs at my home. How is it safe?”
Arwood was evacuated during the methane gas leak and recently returned home. “Since we have moved back the symptoms have immediately returned,” he said. “Itchy skin is the only new thing. We have all of our air purifiers on and the scrubber running and still it is happening.”
Residents in surrounding areas, including Chatsworth and Granada Hills, have also reported a reemergence of symptoms.
Sandy Crawford, a resident of Granada Hills, told CBS News in February — after the methane gas leak was sealed — that within a few hours of returning home, her youngest son had trouble breathing and suffered a nosebleed. Crawford moved her sons back to their hotel, and after trying again to move home and experiencing the same results, she returned to the hotel for a second time. She told Anti-Media they recently tried sleeping at home for a few nights and did not feel symptoms, but she remains afraid they could return. As a result, she is staying at the hotel.