Residents and city officials alike are concerned about an unpleasant smell coming from the Dominguez Channel.
By Emily Faith Grodin, Staff Writer
Since early October, Carson residents have been subjected to a foul smell wafting through the city believed to be coming from the Dominguez Channel, a 15 mile-long river running through South Los Angeles.
The county has declared a local emergency, but has been unable to eliminate the stench completely. Those who are in the affected area complain of side effects including headaches, rashes and respiratory problems. According to LA County officials, hydrogen sulfide from rotting vegetation is to blame for the odor that has affected Wilmington, Torrance, Gardena and parts of Long Beach.
“At this scale the culprit seems to be very unusual,” environmental studies Professor George Leddy explained. While flood control channels can have a bad smell, this case is not quite the norm. “Hydrogen sulfide is not typical since rotting vegetation is quite common, even in flood control channels.”
On Oct. 15 the city hired crews to spray an odor neutralizer typically used at landfills into the waters of the channel. By Dec. 6 the Guardian reported that the source of the contamination that resulted in the foul odors was a fire at a Carson warehouse that stored beauty and wellness products.
“How can anyone say it’s safe?” asked Stephanie De La Rosa, in an LA Times interview. “People are getting sick, and it’s difficult to breathe.”
De La Rosa and her pregnant daughter Samantha reside a half mile from the channel. She has been experiencing headaches and a sore throat. Samantha De La Rosa, 21, has reported headaches and itchy eyes. She is worried it could affect her baby.
Thousands of residents affected by the smell were temporarily relocated to hotels by the county. But while the odor and symptoms persist, the county has begun warning these residents to prepare to return home.
And indeed, this incident, apart from the immediate impact of the odors, highlights other issues.
“It is an environmental injustice that the hydrogen sulfide levels were high for so long,” said Kirsten Rosselot, a licensed chemical engineer. “If they had been wealthy, action to reduce the concentrations of hydrogen sulfide would have been put in place much sooner.”