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Over 100 Homes Will Be Tested After Toxic Chemicals Found In Porter Ranch

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The air inside over 100 homes near the now-contained natural gas leak in Porter Ranch will be tested for toxic chemical residue, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health said Wednesday.

In coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Fielding School of Public Health at UCLA, the county will be testing the air in homes for potentially toxic chemicals and particulate matter associated with the gas leak.

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After initial testing by the agencies at seven homes in the affected area, the chemicals benzene and hexene were found in two of them. According to the county, benzene is a part of cigarette smoke, crude oil and car exhaust; hexene is made from crude oil.

The massive leak from from the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility released methane gas into the air around the northern San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Porter Ranch for nearly four months before it was sealed on Feb. 18.

Throughout the duration of the leak and afterwards, Porter Ranch residents complained of headaches, nosebleeds and other symptoms attributed to the gas leak.

Last month, California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued SoCal Gas, the operator of the Aliso Canyon facility, for failing to control the leak and not notifying regulators about it until days after it was discovered on October 23, 2015.

An appellate court ruling this week requires that the utility continue to pay the lodging costs of temporary housing for thousands of families still displaced by the gas leak until this Friday, March 29, reports KPCC. Nearly 8,000 homes in total were relocated due to the leak.

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The announcement of the Porter Ranch testing comes a day after the county said soil testing near the shuttered Exide battery smelting plant in southeast Los Angeles showed nearly all sites examined for lead were contaminated and would require cleanup.

Some critics say the response by the state, the county and the City of L.A. to the Exide contamination has paled in comparison the to swift action taken by the same agencies in dealing with the gas leak at Porter Ranch. They claim the Porter Ranch fiasco was remedied much more quickly than the situation near the Exide plant in Vernon because the former affected a more affluent community. The predominantly working-class, Latino communities affected by the Exide contamination have been voicing their concerns about health risks for years.

Update [2:05 p.m.] At an L.A. City Council meeting Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California announced she and fellow Sen. Dianne Feinstein had asked President Obama to look into the Aliso Canyon leak, City News Service reports.