Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Foul smell reported across Southern California

A strong rotten egg smell had Southern Californians plugging their noses and crying foul Monday as air quality investigators scrambled to determine if the sulfurous scent was coming from the Salton Sea.

Investigators from the South Coast Air Quality Management District spread investigators all over the region in an attempt to track the stench after being flooded with 200 complaints since midnight from across much of the district's 10,000 square miles, said Barry Wallerstein, executive for the agency.

Wallerstein said "several factors" indicate the odor could be coming from the Salton Sea, a 376-square-mile saltwater lake about 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles, but there is no definitive evidence yet of this or any other cause.

"The odor was extremely intense," said Janis Dawson of the Salton Sea Authority. "We actually thought that somebody had an accident, a broken sewage main, that's how strong it was."

The dying sea, a major resting stop for migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway, has been plagued by increasing salinity. Created in 1905 when floodwaters broke through a Colorado River irrigation canal, it's expected to shrink significantly by 2018 and become even saltier.

The sea had a fish die-off within the past week and that, combined with strong storms in the area late Sunday, could have churned up the water and unleashed bacteria from the sea floor that caused the stench, said Dawson.

The massive thunderstorm complex moved from Mexico over the area Sunday night, with wind gusts up to 60 mph and widespread dust storms.

"We were watching it from the office on our satellite radar and it was huge, one of the largest that any of us have ever seen in probably 10 years," said Mark Moede, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego. more