A stench has been lingering over a city and residents say it's making them sick

·3 min read

A smell like rotten eggs has been lingering over a small California city for the last two weeks, and residents say it has made them sick.

"Fortunately, for me, I've been only having to deal with nonstop headaches and bouts of nausea and dizziness," Anna Meni, who has lived in Carson for 42 years, recently told CBS Los Angeles.

"Last night it was really awful. We couldn't breathe," another Carson resident told CBS Los Angeles on Friday.

"I have a condition," said resident Hermel Rivera. "I'm in remission from cancer so that makes it worse, and I have asthma."

The stench is coming from the Dominguez Channel, a waterway that runs through Carson. Mark Pestrella, the director of Los Angeles County Public Works, said the odor is hydrogen sulfide, which is created by rotting plants and other materials in the channel, CBS Los Angeles reported. According to the Los Angeles Times, California's ongoing drought has contributed to the vegetation buildup.

However, Pestrella also pointed to a pallet fire in Carson two weeks ago which may have released cardboard and ethanol into the channel and worsened the stench.

The Dominguez Channel in Carson, California. / Credit: KCBS
The Dominguez Channel in Carson, California. / Credit: KCBS

"The fire is suspect number one for us, with respect to the materials that have entered into the channel," he said, according to CBS Los Angeles.

On Friday, crews got to work dripping epeoleon — an odor neutralizer often used at landfills and sewage treatment plants — into the water and spraying it on the surface. County officials said it will take three to five days for it to make a noticeable difference, according to CBS Los Angeles.

Once they remove the odor, officials plan to do a thorough cleaning of the channel, Pestrella said.

"I am going to keep my fingers crossed that this is the solution," Mayor Lulu Davis-Holmes said, according to CBS Los Angeles. "They seem confident, and I am going to rely on that. But if not, we will take another step and declare it an emergency."

Davis-Holmes' staff is drafting a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, asking him to step in with state funds as the city works to assist its residents.

Right now, the county is giving residents around $180 for hotel rooms, and is offering to reimburse them for new air filters. However, it's unclear how long it will take for residents to be reimbursed.

On Thursday, the city's residents rallied outside of City Hall, asking city leaders to do more.

The Dominguez Channel in Carson, California. / Credit: KCBS
The Dominguez Channel in Carson, California. / Credit: KCBS

"As of right now, they're expecting to everybody to pay, pay and then submit for reimbursement and then eventually, in a few months, you will get your money back," Meni told CBS Los Angeles.

According to the mayor, the city has already allocated $100,000 to relocate low-income residents.

"Rooms are being identified as we speak. Right now I can tell you that there are 40 rooms that the city has already locked in for our residents who would like to leave the city because they can't tolerate the smell anymore," Davis-Holmes said.

However, the mayor criticized county health officials for not responding quicker.

"It's been proven that the Black and brown communities are not responded to in an expeditious manner. I can say that once I called our supervisor, the ball started rolling," she said, according to CBS Los Angeles.

U.S. Representative Nanette Diaz Barragan asked Newsom on Friday to declare a state of emergency.

"The people of Carson deserve the same level of response as the people that have experienced public health emergencies in el Segundo, Porter Ranch and Malibu," Diaz Barragan said, according to CBS Los Angeles. "Now this is a matter of public health and is quickly becoming an environmental justice issue."

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