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Sen. Boxer Wants Independent Confirmation Methane Gas Leak Over Porter Ranch Is Permanently Sealed

CHATSWORTH ( — A massive leak that spewed methane gas over Porter Ranch for the last four months has been finally stopped. But Sen. Barbara Boxer said she wants independent confirmation that the leak that forced thousands of people from their homes will be sealed permanently.

Boxer held a news conference Friday and met with the residents and businesses, who said they do not trust Southern California Gas Co. The utility said crews have plugged the leak from the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, but more work needs to be done to completely cut off the gas.

The senator is calling for an independent company to test every single house to make sure it is safe to move back in. She said "Before these families return home, they will need to know with certainty that the air will safe to breath."

Save Porter Ranch President Matt Pakucko said he feels like the government is not taking the environmental disaster seriously. "What if some environmental terrorist or international terrorist did something that caused the exactly same leak? Nothing else's different, except the cause of it. We'd have every agency in the country working to solve it. But because SoCalGas caused it, we do we got?" he questioned.

"We have temporarily controlled the natural gas flow from the leaking well and begun the process of sealing the well and permanently stopping the leak," said Jimmie Cho, SoCalGas senior vice president of Gas Operations and System Integrity.

Once the gas company seals the leaking well with cement, the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources will have to confirm that the flow of gas has stopped. That process is expected to take several more days.

As soon as the state confirms the leak has stopped, residents who have been relocated from their homes will have up to eight days to move back to their homes. People living in temporary housing with extended leases will have until those leases run out to return home.

Residents like Kristina Zitkovich remain skeptical at the utility's progress. "As a resident, as a parent, and as a business owner in town, it's nowhere near being done. This is the beginning," Zitkovich said.

Thousands of families were forced to relocate as residents blamed the leaking gas for nosebleeds, nausea, headaches and other health problems.

As of Wednesday, 4,645 households were living in temporary housing at Gas Co. expense. According to the utility, 1,726 other households that had been relocated have already returned home.

The utility has also installed 5,467 air scrubbers at Porter Ranch-area homes and performed "weatherization" work on 5,410 homes.

Students at two Los Angeles Unified School District campuses were also forced to move due to the leak and concerns about its impact on the health of students and staff.

Roughly 1,100 kindergarten through 8th-grade students at Porter Ranch Community School have been attending class at Northridge Middle School since the beginning of the year. The 770 kindergarten through 5th-grade students at Castlebay Lane Charter School have been at Sunny Brae Elementary School in Winnetka.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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