Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Was the Salton Sea Really to Blame for Monday's L.A. Stench?

salton sea postcard

I know I'm not the only one who smelled it on Monday morning. When I noticed a vague sulfur-like smell in the air outside this morning, I considered calling the Gas Company, figuring it might be our house. But I turns out I was off by about 100 miles, as the L.A. Times reports:

Southern California awoke Monday morning to a foul odor that wouldn't go away. Residents clogged 911 lines with calls, prompting health officials from Ventura County to Palm Springs to send investigators looking for everything from a toxic spill to a sewer plant leak.

The prime suspect, however, lay more than 100 miles away from Los Angeles. The leading theory is that the stink was caused by the annual die-off of fish in the Salton Sea. Officials believe Sunday evening's thunderstorms and strong winds churned up the water and pushed that dead-fish smell to points west overnight.

I dunno. Not to get all conspiracy-minded on you, but that sounds like too convenient of an excuse. "It's very unusual that any odor would be this widespread, from the Coachella to Los Angeles County," Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, told the L.A. Times. "We're talking well over 100 miles. I can't recall ever confirming an odor traveling that distance."

Adds Andrew Schlange, general manager of the Salton Sea Authority: "The problem is [the odor] would have to have migrated 50 to 100 miles, without it being dissipated by mixing with other air. It doesn't seem possible," he said. "I've been in Southern California my whole life, and I'm not aware of any time in the past where the odor from the Salton Sea has migrated as far as people are telling us."

Hmm. Any other theories out there?

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