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California town calls for federal help with lingering stench that residents say makes them sick

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The mayor of Carson, California, along with a local environmental group, has called for federal intervention to help with a foul odor that has plagued the city for a month now. The stench, which some residents say gives them headaches and makes them nauseous and dizzy, is coming from a local waterway with rotting vegetation.

Nonprofit organization Coalition For A Safe Environment has called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to front the investigation behind the smell.

So far, the Los Angeles Public Works and Public Health departments and the South Coast Air Quality Management District have been in charge of addressing the odor. Maintenance crews have attempted to neutralize the smell by spraying a biodegradable deodorizer into the channel and by utilizing a nano-bubbler system to increase dissolved oxygen. Officials on Monday proposed dredging the channel, but the process could take months to complete, CBS Los Angeles reports.

According to the Los Angeles County Public Works, the rotten egg smell is coming from hydrogen sulfide within the Dominguez Channel. The gas is created by rotting plants and other materials in the water.

One resident said the smell is so bad that they wear a face mask while inside of their own home, according to CBS Los Angeles

After conducting its own independent investigation, the Coalition For A Safe Environment questioned the sources of the smelly hydrogen sulfide in the channel. 

"It is true Hydrogen Sulfide was found in the Dominguez Channel but it is near impossible for Hydrogen Sulfide to have been created there and in the large quantities still being released every day," the group's executive director Jesse N. Marquez said. "It would take tons and tons of decaying organic matter in one location in a confined area, over a period of time, with little to no oxygen to create Hydrogen Sulfide."

He called for federal officials to review refineries in the area, inspect abandoned wells and check for corrosion and leaks of toxic chemicals, according to the Los Angeles Times. 


Last week, Carson Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes officially declared a local emergency due to the foul odor, and called on President Biden to provide access to more resources. 

She said the city has relocated thousands of impacted residents to hotels in surrounding cities and has distributed more than 600 air purifiers. 

This week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also declared a local emergency for the smell to allocate even more resources. However, Supervisor Holly Mitchell emphasized that the declaration does not signify a new health concern for residents from the smell. 

"I want to be clear that this proclamation of a local emergency does not mean that the hydrogen sulfide levels emanating from the Dominguez Channel now pose an imminent danger to the health of residents," Mitchell said. "Thankfully, that is currently not the case. However, it does make clear the urgent need for additional support and resources to help with short and long-term solutions to end this odor that is severely impacting the quality of life for thousands of residents."

The Los Angeles Fire Department said that the stench is "not lethal or deadly," according to CBS Los Angeles. The South Coast Air Quality Management District said it didn't believe the odor would cause "any health impacts beyond nuisance type effects."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hydrogen sulfide exposure can irritate the eyes and respiratory system. It can cause symptoms including coma, convulsions, dizziness, headache and insomnia.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommends residents limit exposure to the odor by keeping their windows and doors closed and avoiding prolonged outdoor activities. Those who experience persistent, worrisome or worsening symptoms from the stench are encouraged to get in touch with health care providers. 

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