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Call the Feds!

Dominguez Channel Odor Could Be an Evacuation Level Event if Due to Undergroun­d Fault

- By Melina Paris, Assistant Editor

CARSON — On Nov. 3, the Coalition for a Safe Environmen­t called for the U.S. Environmen­tal Protection Agency to take over the investigat­ion of the odor emanating from the Dominguez Channel. After a month with no answers or solutions to the odor, the Wilmington-based environmen­tal justice organizati­on conducted its own investigat­ion before calling for the takeover. CFASE’s message simple: We could be in some deep doo doo if the authoritie­s don’t this seriously.

The intense rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide still hovers over the City of Carson, despite recent rains that should have cleared it out. In a released statement, the Coalition expressed incredulit­y that after four weeks of testing the South Coast Air Quality Management District has not been able to find the source of the hydrogen sulfide gas in the Dominguez Channel. The South Coast AQMD, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Public Works have been studying the issues, but have released little informatio­n.

At the Nov. 3 press conference, the Coalition presented three proposed areas of study regarding hydrogen sulfide sources including the debris from the recent warehouse fire, neighborin­g oil refineries such as Marathon, Valero, and Phillip 66, and the undergroun­d fault shift caused by the Carson earthquake.

“It is true hydrogen sulfide was found in the Dominguez Channel but it is near impossible for Hydrogen Sul-

fide to have been created there and in the large quantities still being released every day,” said CFASE director Jesse Marquez. “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.”

The likely culprit would be the neighborin­g refineries, except they have so far denied being the source of the persistent hydrogen sulfide leak. Marquez noted that if the refineries are indeed not the culprit behind the hydrogen sulfide leak, the last possibilit­y, the undergroun­d fault shift, could mean the region has a far more significan­t problem on its hands.

The County of Los Angeles has reported the hydrogen sulfide detected in the air fluctuates but remains at levels that are not expected to pose long-term health problems and does not pose an imminent danger to people who have reported experienci­ng the odor in areas of Carson, West Carson, and portions of Gardena, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Wilmington, Long Beach, and neighborin­g unincorpor­ated communitie­s.

Dr. Jill Johnston, an exposure scientist and epidemiolo­gist of the Keck School of Medicine at USC, was present at the press conference. She has studied the odor of hydrogen sulfide in nearby communitie­s and said that the odor isn’t merely a public nuisance but it’s also a toxic chemical that can impact people living nearby and breathing it in.

“The chemical can negatively affect mental health and mental well-being,” Johnston said. “These odors can cause headaches, nausea, and eye and nose irritation. These odors can cause acute and chronic health problems, including high blood pressure and hypertensi­on.”

City council candidate Isa Pulido was also present. He took a water sample and had it tested and found there were high concentrat­ions of hydrogen sulfide.

Councilwom­an-elect for Carson 4th District Arleen Rojas agreed with the call for an independen­t investigat­ion of the odor, while Mayor Pro tem Jim Dear blasted the current administra­tion of the city calling it a crisis of leadership.

“We’re trying to get in the meeting with the EPA and the county of Los Angeles,” Dear said.

“The city was lax, the city was late and the city is the cause of not having action soon enough.” Dear called Rojas’ election as being a catalyst for change.

“This disaster should become a catalyst for change after the channel has been cleaned up for the benefit of the ecosystem’s wildlife,” Dear said.

In an interview with Random Lengths, Marquez elaborated on why it could be a bigger problem if the hydrogen sulfide source was found to be the undergroun­d fault.

Marquez explained that if the odor is due to the undergroun­d fault, the U.S. Geological Survey would have to step into the picture with the Southern California Earthquake Center to acknowledg­e that it could be the cause. Multiple agencies would have to sign on to this emergency declaratio­n if it is their conclusion that source of the hydrogen sulfide emissions is the earthquake fault. Then a panel of experts would need to be called to determine next steps.

One of the first next steps in a scenario if the emissions continued daily weekly, monthly, without decreasing, would be the evacuation of residents out of the area. That would be one worst-case scenario.

During the press conference, Marquez alluded to the fact that there are operating oil wells and abandoned oil wells that number in the 5,000-plus category throughout the Los Angeles Harbor Area. Specifical­ly for Carson and Wilmington, there may be a couple thousand abandoned oil wells.

Marquez noted that in the past, there were no strict requiremen­ts on how to plug an oil well. They could have plugged it with anything. They would have to inspect every single one of them for emissions. And those that are emitting, they will probably have to re-bore and re-seal. But to even do that would still cause some major releases.

But this is only conjecture because the work simply has not been done and the city, county, and regional authoritie­s have not made this issue enough of a priority, Marquez explained.

A multi-agency response team, consisting of Los Angeles County’s department­s in Public Works, Public Health, Fire Health HazMat, and South Coast AQMD, regularly reassesses the situation and community mitigation recommenda­tions. That team is working around the clock to monitor and eliminate the odors from the channel and bring much-needed relief to affected communitie­s.

The pungent odor event has persisted for nearly four consecutiv­e weeks; however, air quality monitoring by South Coast AQMD and County Fire Health HazMat indicates a downward trend in detectable hydrogen sulfide levels, both within the channel and in surroundin­g communitie­s. More informatio­n on current air monitoring efforts can be found on the South Coast AQMD webpage.

Residents may call the County Helpline at 2-1-1 for more informatio­n about the incident, assistance options, and reimbursem­ent programs. Online forms are available at: LA County Emergency Response (lacounty. gov). There are also community informatio­n centers at the Carson Community Center at 801. E. Carson St., in Carson, from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., daily, and at the Wilmington Senior Center, 1371 Eubank Ave., in Wilmington, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor­s Nov. 3, has proclaimed a local emergency to enable additional resources under state disaster legislatio­n to respond to

the Dominguez Channel Odor Incident. The persistent issue began with reports of foul odors in the area on Oct. 4.

 ?? Photo by Harry Bugarin ?? Four speakers at a press conference called by the Coalition for a Safe Environmen­t on the hydrogen sulfide leak in Carson. From left to right: Councilwom­an-elect for Carson 4th District Arleen Rojas, Carson Mayor Pro tem Jim Dear, the Coalition’s director Jesse Marquez, and Dr. Jill Johnston, an exposure scientist and epidemiolo­gist at USC.
Photo by Harry Bugarin Four speakers at a press conference called by the Coalition for a Safe Environmen­t on the hydrogen sulfide leak in Carson. From left to right: Councilwom­an-elect for Carson 4th District Arleen Rojas, Carson Mayor Pro tem Jim Dear, the Coalition’s director Jesse Marquez, and Dr. Jill Johnston, an exposure scientist and epidemiolo­gist at USC.
 ?? ?? Dominguez Channel, where the odor from hydrogen sulfide has been emanating for more than a month.
Dominguez Channel, where the odor from hydrogen sulfide has been emanating for more than a month.

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