Amid foul odor, Carson residents warned to close windows, doors

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Public health officials are recommending Carson residents keep their doors and windows closed as authorities work to address a foul odor that has plagued the city for nearly a week.

The aroma,which has been likened online to the smell of vomit, “a fart bomb” and unwashed body parts, is emanating from the Dominguez Channel, a drain channel that crosses through industrial areas on its way to the Port of Los Angeles.

A team from the South Coast Air Quality Management District inspected the area last week and initially suspected that “organic material” stranded on the channel banks by low tide was causing the noxious scent.

But Carson Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes announced Friday that “the cause and location have been identified as a Hydrogen Sulfide leaking pipeline.” The gas, which gives off a rotten eggs smell and can be toxic, is used in refineries and other businesses similar to those that line the channel.

Davis-Holmes said in a Facebook post that crews from Los Angeles County fire, hazmat and public works were at the scene and “trying to determine the responsible party and when the pipeline will be repaired.”

The mayor did not immediately return a message Sunday, and a spokesperson for the air quality management board, Nahal Mogharabi, appeared to dispute her account in an email, saying, “We have not confirmed a leaking pipe or source. We are still actively investigating and are still evaluating potential sources.”

An air monitoring operation Friday and Saturday by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department detected “very low levels” of hydrogen sulfide east of the channel and said they did not pose a grave health threat.

“At these low levels, hydrogen sulfide does not have long-term health effects, but does cause nuisance odors that may cause short-term symptoms and impact quality of life,” public health officials said Saturday.

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Among the possible temporary afflictions are headaches, nausea, and irritation of the eye, ear and nose, health officials said. Residents should use air conditioners until the “odor event” passes and could also use portable air filters inside their homes, the officials said.

Rebecca Ang, an aerospace industry analyst who lives four blocks from the channel, described the scent as “unbearable” and said she fled to Palos Verdes and Redondo Beach this weekend to escape the olfactory assault for a few hours.

“I want someone to go over there and fix it,” Ang said. The birds that normally sing in her neighborhood have disappeared, she said, and she worried that no one truly knew the long-term health effects for herself and her neighbors. “How long is this investigation going to last?”

The smell has drifted into areas of Long Beach and has been noted by motorists traveling through the area.

“I could smell the scent of rotten eggs when driving on the 405 freeway and take these complaints from our residents seriously,” county Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell noted in a statement urging residents to follow health department advice and keep their homes closed up “as much as possible.”

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