Random Lengths News
Foul Smell: Residents are Fed Up with County, City’s Stalling
Headaches and nausea How much is too much exposure?
Carson residents are sickened by how city officials and the county have handled the repulsive smell caused by hydrogen sulfide in the Dominguez Channel. Residents began reporting the smell before Oct.1 but did not hear an official report from county or city officials until Oct. 8. Even then, misinformation spread like wildfire.
On Friday evening Carson Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes posted on her Facebook page declaring the cause of the smell was a pipeline leaking hydrogen sulfide. But agencies representatives of the Los Angeles Department of Public Works and Los Angeles County Fire Department in contact with Random Lengths News had already ruled out the possibility of any leakage.
“I have called for a full investigation because up until today, no information was released to the public or the city,” Davis-Holmes said. “My question to all involved agencies now that we have identified the problem is what and when will the problem be corrected. Who is at fault, and what will be done to prevent this from happening again. This lack of transparency is unacceptable.”
By Sunday, Davis-Holmes stated the origin of the smell was “organic waste material drying out after being exposed during low tide.”
Later that afternoon, the City of Carson hosted a press conference with Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and representatives from Los Angeles County Public Works, South Coast Air Quality Management District, Department of Public Health, and the fire department.
Ana Meni, Carson resident and president of AFSCME Local 809, showed up to the press conference as it ended, confronting Carson councilmembers Jawane Hilton and Cedric L. Hicks for not notifying residents of the press conference. She had found out about the conference after both Hilton and Hicks had gone live on their Facebook.
“There has been a total disconnect of what the issue is and what the cause of it is,” she said. “There was no concerted joint effort task force between all the different public entities. I am appalled by that because it is our public officials’ responsibility to look out for this community. How on earth are we supposed to have any faith in their abilities if they can’t even take care of this. They can’t even get on the same page to make sure they know what the hell is the cause of this problem. While everybody’s farting around, all of us are sitting here suffering.”
Residents have found community in Carson groups on Facebook. Many share their frustrations and worries. Others have spent the week scrambling for information and investigating alongside the channel, sharing videos, photos and any details that might help them ease their distress.
The smell has only gotten worse. According to residents who commute to work as of Oct. 11, the odor can be smelled further into neighboring cities, including Long Beach, Torrance and Compton.
Lakeisha Coleman began to experience headaches on Sept. 22. On Oct. 1, she checked into the emergency room for intense headaches, stomachaches and nausea. In a period of two weeks, she saw her doctor on four different occasions. They prescribed her multiple medications, ordered her to see a neurologist and recommended a sleep study. When city officials announced on Oct. 8 that they found hydrogen sulfide in the air near her home, her doctors stopped all treatments and advised her to leave Carson.
“I really feel like I’m taking off on an airplane every second of my life right now,” she said. “I felt like my head was just gonna open up.”
Coleman went with her doctor’s recommendation and drove up north for the weekend. While she was away, her symptoms disappeared, but when she returned Sunday morning, she began to experience the symptoms again — just three hours after her return.
“I really don’t have a plan,” she said. “I have four children in my home. My husband, my animals. This is just insane.”
Her doctors say the hydrogen sulfide was most likely the cause of her headaches.
According to The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health there is no long-term impact on health. Residents are encouraged to take several precautions, including closing their windows, limiting time spent outdoors and keeping air circulating in their home.
The Dominguez Channel is in Sergio Avila and his wife’s backyard. In the last couple of days they both have experienced intense symptoms. Their four dogs began vomiting as soon as the smell began. The Avila family claim the smell is not new to them — it’s a common recurrence.
“You know what that smell has been here before but not for this many days,” Avila said. “What I don’t understand is how they say it’s not health hazardous but when I read online and searched up hydrogen sulfide it says if you smell high levels it can be deadly.”
Brissa Gonzalez works at the SouthBay Pavilion near Avalon Boulevard and the 405 Freeway. She began smelling the rotten egg-like smell two weeks ago.
“Usually, when I am on my break I eat outside, but I can’t even do that anymore,” she said.
“I lose my appetite.”
Businesses in the same shopping center are considering down. Schools in the area began taking extra precautions, including moving outdoor activities indoors and closing all windows during instruction. Many parents have expressed concern with sending their children to school.
County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommended schools take the same protocols of “a bad air day.” He recommended businesses affected by the smell to keep their doors closed and buy air filter systems.
“You have to make the best decision for the situation,” he said when a small business owner emotionally shared that she was debating on temporarily closing her business.
South Coast Air Quality Management District found elevated concentrations of hydrogen sulfide in the air surrounding the Dominguez Channel near Avalon Boulevard and the 405 Freeway. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, low concentration of hydrogen sulfide can cause headaches, eye irritation and nausea. Exposure to high concentrations can lead to more serious health complications — naturally by decaying organic matter or by pipe leaking from refineries.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the level of exposure depends on the duration and the dose. The gas is quickly absorbed by the lungs and can affect each individual differently. Children are more susceptible to inhale larger doses due to weight ratios and diameter of their airways.
The gas is detectable at concentrations as low as 0.5 particles per billion, or ppb. Dangerously, continuous exposure can rapidly deaden the sense of smell. Although odor is an indicator of the presence of the gas, the level of smell does not indicate increasing concentrations. Meaning higher concentration can have less odor. For this reason, odor is not a reliable indicator of hydrogen sulfide’s presence and may not provide adequate warning of hazardous concentrations.
As of Oct. 11 the amount of gas detected has yet to be released. Dr. Muntu Davis stated those numbers will be available soon. Residents are left wondering why the information has never been available to begin with.
“We’ve been pushing to try to get that information out,” he said. “I do want people to understand that these levels fluctuate throughout the day, and are different in different locations.”
Hydrogen Sulfide is used in oil and gas refining. It can also develop naturally in sewers and enclosed spaces, such as manholes. With Carson being the home of the largest refinery in the West Coast, residents theorized there was a pipeline leak.
On Oct. 8, Los Angeles County Fire Department Health Hazmat Division arrived on the scene. Los Angeles County Fire Department inspector Jonathan Matheny found no evidence of any petroleum based product leak. Later that evening, Marathon Los Angeles Refinery released a notice that the refinery had not caused the elevated readings of hydrogen sulfide.