Carson residents cry foul as area still reeks of bad odor; LA County officials hold town hall meeting

A foul odor has permeated throughout Carson and the South Bay for several days, leading Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and health officials to host a town hall meeting Thursday to discuss solutions.

The smell, described as "rotten eggs," has impacted the area and neighboring cities like Long Beach and Torrance. Many residents have also reported feelings of nausea and soreness in their throats due to the smell.

County officials held a town hall meeting online only to update residents on their progress, saying they have an action plan to tackle the smell.  

"The purpose of today's conversation and my expectation is that we're providing regular updates to the public and again resources to be made available," said LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Low levels of hydrogen sulfide found in air near Dominguez Channel in Carson

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Mark Pestrella, the Director of the LA County Department of Public Works, spoke during the meeting in-depth about the believed source of the odor, the Dominguez Channel, a 15-mile channel that is federally protected.

"It [Dominguez Channel] has special protections. We found high air quality tests with elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air. This is decomposing organic material in the channel that appears to be the source," he said.

Pestrella believes the lack of rain and discharges from the channel upstream may be contributing to the increased levels of hydrogen sulfide in the area.

"We have never had an incident that lasted this long so we started to ask ourselves what's causing the problem. We've been testing the air all over LA County to find out where this is coming from, what the source could be, and we've landed back at this channel. The good news is we have found a way we think is going to work to stop the odor. We're going to start working on that right away," he said.

On Friday, crews will start using an odor neutralizer typically used in landfills to convert the hydrogen sulfide into salt, and will also flush stagnant water, and implement aerators to introduce oxygen into the water. The long-term plan includes dredging and sediment removal.

Residents held a rally on Thursday demanding better leadership and more answers.

"We need to have our city officials and all the different entities stop downplaying it. It's not just a smell. People are physically getting sick. It is so bad people are trying to figure out ways to relocate. The city has been sitting on this for two weeks. We have not had any plan provided to us and they've been discriminating on who gets help and who doesn't. This isn't the hunger games. They're [city officials] not directly impacted by the channel because they live far north away from everything so for them it's a nuisance and an inconvenience," said Ana Meni, a resident.

Donielle Ayala lives and runs a childcare business in Carson and has concerns about the smell too.

"I run a business, a childcare business. It's hard on the kids because I don't like them to be inside at all times and I don't want them to get sick either. It's a sour smell that you can't even imagine and it's really bad. It's like rotten eggs. If they find the solution, then help us because it'll be better for us, but right now we're just suffering because of the smell," said Ayala.

Health officials say the smell poses no long-term health effects, but warn people may experience headaches, nausea, or throat irritation. Officials have advised people to temporarily relocate or buy an air filter. The County is reimbursing residents if they hold on to receipts showing they bought air filters or other measures for their homes. Reimbursements will include air filters, masks and up to $182 per night in a Los Angeles County hotel. Residents are urged to call the 2-1-1 hotline and specify that their call is regarding the Dominguez Channel to receive assistance. 

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