Random Lengths News

Foul Smell: Residents are Fed Up with County, City’s Stalling

Headaches and nausea How much is too much exposure?

- By Fabiola Esqueda, Carson Reporter GNI Fellow,

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.

 ?? ?? Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes, Los Angeles Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, councilmem­bers Jawane Hilton and Cedric L. Hicks address Carson residents. Photo by Raphael Richardson
Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes, Los Angeles Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, councilmem­bers Jawane Hilton and Cedric L. Hicks address Carson residents. Photo by Raphael Richardson
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