UPDATE: The Salton Sea Is Stinking-Up the Southland; Can You Smell It?

The odor has spread from Palm Springs to the North Valley and Foothill communities and from Burbank to Chatsworth, Simi Valley, Calabasas and beyond.

That rotten-egg smell spreading from the Inland Empire through the Southland most likely eminates from the Salton Sea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is telling the Los Angeles Times.

"I'm 99.9% sure it's the Salton Sea,'' spokeswoman Julie Hutchinson told the Times. "It's just a nasty, funky smell from the Salton Sea. … We've had it before.''

The Los Angeles Fire Department is investigating the smell that has spread across the North Valley and Foothill communities this morning from Burbank to Chatsworth, Simi Valley and Calabasas. Additional reports have come from Palm Springs, Redlands, Moreno Valley and San Bernardino.

And @LAFDConversation Tweeted: “@LAFD aware of thoughts re Salton Sea as odor source, but because that site (+ odor) *vastly* beyond our jurisdiction, must rely on AQMD.”

However, Andrew Schlange, interim general manager of the Salton Sea Authority, is telling KNBC4 that it is not yet clear whether the inland sea near Indio is the culprit.

"We are in the process of trying to track it down," Schlange told the television station. It would be unusual for a fish die-off to cause odors so far away, he said.

However, Timothy Krantz, a professor in the University of Redlands’ Environmental Studies Program who studies the troubled lake, told the Desert Sun that sulfur dioxide builds up in the Salton Sea during the summer.

“When we get a wind event, such as yesterday’s southeasterly ‘Chubasco’ blowing up from the Gulf of California, it pushes the surface waters off, causing upwelling of the bottom sulphurous water layers, hence the rotten egg smell,” he said.

"Since around midnight last night, AQMD has received more than 100 calls reporting a strong, foul rotten egg/sulfur odor. Residents have complained from a very wide area including the Inland Empire and much of the Los Angeles Basin," spokesman Sam Atwood of the Air Quality Management District said. 

"The smell is from the Salton Sea," Senior Meteorologist Kevin Martin with Southern California Weather Authority.com told Murietta Patch. "An outflow boundary came in last night from Yuma, Ariz., ... crossed the Salton Sea and carried the smell up the Coachella Valley and through the Banning Pass, which ejected outward into the Inland Empire, Orange and Los Angeles County areas."

"Parents at Castlebay Lane [Elementary School] are complaining about a terrible smell throughout the area. Eyes are watering, kids are saying that they have headaches. Some say it worse than the smell six months ago when the gas company reportedly released fumes. This can't be healthy for the residents and children attending schools," one Porter Ranch reader wrote to Patch.

 the scent of escaping natural gas throughout the northwest Valley. However, Denise King of the Southern California Gas Co., says today's odor is not coming from the company's storage or pipeline system.

Some schools in the foothills areas of Los Angeles County have implemented their "rainy day'' schedule, which means activities normally taking place outdoors will take place indoors, Monica Carazo of the Los Angeles Unified School District told City News Service. One of the affected schools is Osceola Street Elementary in Sylmar, according to KABC7.

At Rainbow Ridge Elementary School in Moreno Valley, the smell was particularly bad at about 7:15 a.m., Kymberlee Henry-Davis said in an email to KNBC4.

"All of the children were holding their noses," Henry-Davis wrote. "I even saw a child vomiting."

Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey reports that the "LAFD is not aware of any specific hazard associated with the odor. There is no need to call 9-1-1 to report this widespread odor." 

"Fish kills, algae blooms and other biologic conditions in lakes can cause strong odors. Industrial facilities such as wastewater plants also can cause sulfur odors," the AQMD's Atwood said. "At this time AQMD hasn’t confirmed any source as the cause of the widespread odor."

Studio City resident Rich Addams contacted Patch, saying: "It smelled a little sulphuric, maybe like something died," said the resident, pointing to the area near the Tujunga Avenue bridge in Studio City. "I smelled it once this weekend, I think Sunday, but there are all kinds of smells coming from that wash."

"It just reeks," Chris Tatum, a steelworker from Riverside told the Times. "It smells like rotten muck. I thought there was a fire or something. I couldn't tell what it was."

Bill Nash, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department, told the Ventura County Star that a hazardous material team is looking for the source of the stench.

"We are hearing that whatever this is, it's very wide spread, maybe even as far as Riverside and San Bernardino," Nash told the Star.

"We don't think it's originating in Simi Valley."

Please return to Patch for follow-up reports as this story unfolds.

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Gerald Lane Summers September 11, 2012 at 02:53 PM
The southern end of the Salton Sea sits over a volcanic spreading center. There are several volcanic features there, which include boiling mud pots and an uplifted area called, "Obsidian Buttes." In the past two days this area has been hit by a swarm of small earthquakes. The strongest has been 3.3. They do not seem to be part of the earlier Brawley swarm. It seems likely that this activity has either stirred up the sediment in the sea or is a manifestation of the volcanic activity below. The usual smell emanating from the Salton Sea has not been previously described at sulfurous, or a, "rotten egg," smell. It has had a distinctly dead fish smell, especially in the summer. I lived in the Imperial Valley for 50 years and smelled it many times. A sulfurous smell is generally associated with some volcanic event where gas seeps up from underground. There is a spring at Jacumba, California in the foothills above the Imperial Valley that has that rotten egg smell. It, too, is associated with very old volcanic activity. I suggest that the seismology experts pay close attention to this phenomena. Especially since this is the area they have suggested could be where the next big earthquake on the southern San Andreas would likely start.
Shawn Richardson September 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Decomposing organic matter in anaerobic conditions produces hydrogen sulfide, the chemical responsible for the rotten egg smell. A fish die off due to lack of oxygen is definitely going to generate copious amounts of hydrogen sulfide.
Culturevator September 11, 2012 at 03:20 PM
There has always been that rotten egg smell emanating from 6th/ La Brea by the tar pits. It's ongoing. I love the Salton Sea. It's white trash ruins are perfectly preserved, like everything in the desert. A true marvel, with exotic names of destinations along the coastline, like Bombay Beach, and Mecca. I am fascinated.
Frank Mackey September 11, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I was thinking the same thing yesterday when I realized it had that sort of "burnt" smell to it. And the fact that it was over such a large area... probably not man-made.


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