Porter Ranch residents want their voices heard amid gas leak

DIAMOND BAR, Calif. (KABC) -- Porter Ranch residents aimed to make their voices heard loud and clear at the South Coast Air Quality Management District's meeting on Wednesday.

The small group of residents chanted and held up signs outside the meeting, which took place at the AQMD headquarters in Diamond Bar.

MORE: New video allegedly shows gas still spewing in Porter Ranch

The AQMD considered delaying any major decisions Wednesday and moving the meeting to Saturday in Woodland Hills, which is closer to Porter Ranch, to give the community a better chance to attend.

Residents are concerned about the most dangerous chemicals such as benzene, a known carcinogen. Los Angeles County Public Health officials held a press conference Wednesday to reassure residents that they don't believe they are facing serious health risks from exposure to the noxious fumes.

"Preliminary assessment now is that these benzene levels are not present at levels that would cause adverse effects. However, the data is very limited," said Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health for the department.

Bellomo added that expanded monitoring is taking place each day to better gauge what the department is dealing with.

MORE: Images shed new light on scope of Porter Ranch gas leak

This natural gas leak, which has been going on since October, has caused numerous problems in the Porter Ranch community.

Hundreds of residents have been forced to relocate from their homes. Two area schools have completely shut down and their students were relocated.

Since many residents have been relocated, county officials are now investigating whether there has been a huge financial impact to businesses in the Porter Ranch neighborhood. Preschool owners Barbara and Douglas Packard told Eyewitness News that they're struggling to keep their business open since the leak happened.

They opened the school 19 years ago, and since the leak happened enrollment has dropped and they've lost about one-third of the students and thousands of dollars.

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Local businesses in the Porter Ranch neighborhood said they are seeing the financial impacts of the months-long gas leak.

Residents say the gas leak is making them sick, reporting headaches, nose bleeds, nausea and other symptoms. They say their animals are being impacted too, with many reporting similar symptoms in their pets.

Many residents believe the only sure-fire solution is to completely shut the facility down.

"Because it's an invisible gas, it's an invisible disaster. That's why we're here to give it visibility," said Mark Morris of Granada Hills. "These are the people that are being impacted by it. These are the people that in the holiday season had to relocate their homes from homes to hotels - from houses to hotel rooms."

Currently, the AQMD is not considering shutting the entire facility down. They are considering, however, permanently shutting down the leaking well and also adding monitoring devices to prevent leaks at other wells.
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