Residents in a city in U.S. turned victims of industrial hazard. A smell sickened Los Angeles County residents for months. Some 3,200 residents in Carson and surrounding cities were forced to temporarily relocate to hotel rooms.
A report by Julian Mark in The Washington Post (A smell sickened L.A. County residents for months. Officials say a fire that torched wellness products is to blame., December 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/12/06/carson-warehouse-fire-likely-caused-putrid-smell-la-county/) said:
“In early October, Monique Alvarez and her family noticed an acrid, rotten-egg smell had invaded her Carson, Calif., home in Los Angeles County. Soon, they started experiencing headaches and stomach pain.
“‘The smell itself was never a huge issue to me,’ Alvarez, 40, told The Washington Post. ‘It was more so waking up feeling like I left my [stove] gas on.’
“Her breaking point came two weeks later, when Alvarez said she found her 3-year-old daughter lying on the floor, saying, ‘I have an owie in my body.’
“Distressed, the lifelong Carson resident left town with her husband and three children. They were not alone.”
The report said:
“More than 4,600 complaints have been filed about the smell since it was first reported on Oct. 3, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some 3,200 residents in Carson and surrounding cities were forced to temporarily relocate to hotel rooms paid for by the county, and those who stayed home were given air purifiers. Alvarez and her family were among the residents who took a hotel room.
“For close to two months, investigators puzzled over why the noxious gas was overwhelming the Carson area. Officials knew the stench was the product of a colorless and odorous gas called hydrogen sulfide produced by decaying organic material – and that it was probably emanating from the Dominguez Channel that runs through Carson, the Times reported. But they could not identify what had changed conditions in the channel.
“‘There had to be, to put it in plain language, something out of the water that we normally don’t see,’ Mark Pestrella, the L.A. County Public Works director, told the Times.
“On Friday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, an agency that oversees the area’s air conditions, announced that its investigation had pinpointed a culprit: A three-alarm fire that erupted on Sept. 30 at a Carson warehouse storing wellness and beauty products.
“After the fire was extinguished – an effort that took days – the chemicals contained in the products, including ethanol, flowed into the sewer system and into the Dominguez Channel, the management district said in a news release. The chemicals caused organic material in the channel to decay and release abnormally high hydrogen sulfide levels.
“At its worst, the hydrogen sulfide levels in the air reached nearly 7,000 parts per billion – 230 times higher than the state’s nuisance standard, the management district said.
“Pestrella told the New York Times that the warehouse stored ‘large vats of ethanol.’ An L.A. County fire inspector told KTLA that the blaze spread among rubbing alcohol wipes stored in crates. And a class-action lawsuit filed by affected residents alleges that the warehouse was stacked high with boxes of ethanol-based hand sanitizer. In the days after the fire, the suit adds, ‘large amounts of soggy, charred debris’ – including the sanitizer – remained piled at the warehouse.
“As a result of its investigation, the management district issued violations to four companies, as well as L.A. County, for their roles in contaminating the air. Virgin Scent, doing business as Art Naturals, and Day to Day Imports had stored ‘large quantities’ of wellness and beauty products in the warehouse, the agency said. The warehouse is owned by Liberty Properties Limited Partnership and its parent company, Prologis. Los Angeles County manages the channel.
“None of the companies immediately returned a request for comment from The Post late Sunday, nor did a spokesperson for L.A. County. A Prologis spokeswoman told the L.A. Times that the company was working with the L.A. County Fire Department to clean the property and prevent further chemical runoff.”
The report added:
“As of last week, L.A. County has spent $54 million on cleaning up the channel, as well as paying for hotel rooms and air purifiers, the Los Angeles Times reported. If the cleanup continues until March, those costs could reach $143 million.
“‘The gas has caused and is continuing to cause physical injury to residents and is interfering with [their] ability to use and enjoy their properties,’ states the class-action lawsuit, filed on Nov. 12 in Los Angeles Superior Court. It adds: ‘The full extent of exposure is unknown.’
“Alvarez, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that since she and her family returned home on Nov. 26, the odor has dissipated, but they are still experiencing symptoms.
“Alvarez explained that she has deep roots in Carson: Her grandfather worked there as a farmer as a young boy, and her parents raised her there. ‘It’s nice to be home – but . . . I’m really considering relocation,’ she said. ‘I don’t feel like home is a safe place.’”
Another report by The Washington Post in 2020 (Residents Raise a Stink Over Chicken Manure, by Graeme Zielinski, May 21, 2000, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2000/05/21/residents-raise-a-stink-over-chicken-manure/bac3a1bb-dda7-4ceb-a347-389af1ef19e7/) said:
“Evans Avenue smells.
“Last week, it smelled of dogwood, honeysuckle and the occasional petunia from the dozen well-manicured lawns that line the tidy street on the outskirts of the Town of Warrenton.
“Earlier this month, residents of this neighborhood off Route 17 said the bushes and flowers were overpowered by a much less pleasant scent, the tear-jerking odor of chicken manure spread on the pasture next door.
“Like Loudoun County, where a new gun ordinance has been proposed to keep hunters’ weapons fire farther away from residential development, Fauquier County is experiencing the collision of town and county, suburbia and countryside.”
“The ‘unbelievable’ stench got so bad, according to Evans Avenue residents, they became prisoners in their homes. ‘I couldn’t go outside,’ said Pauline Wyman, 70, a Fauquier native who has lived in the neighborhood for 33 years and said she suffers from asthma. ‘I can’t get my breath when it’s there. . . . You can’t plan an outing of any kind, like a cookout, because you never know when it’s going to be dumped. You can’t even eat inside.’
“But Marie Horng, who owns the farm with her husband, said the neighbors would mind the smell less if they considered the alternatives: a field full of houses.
“‘The open space is a benefit for them,’ Horng said. ‘The neighbors should appreciate the open field and the nature. . . . If we had houses put in and everything else, they wouldn’t like it.’
“The neighbors said they are worried not only about the smell but also about the potential risks to the water supply, and they are beginning anew their campaign to place restrictions on the use of chicken waste as fertilizer.
“Because their houses are within town limits and the farm is in the county, the neighbors made overtures to both town and county officials in the last few years without result. They acknowledge that the prospects for any new restrictions seem dim.
“Horng said she would consider meeting with the neighbors to discuss the smell–she says she has never been contacted face to face, though neighbors say they have left messages for her with the farm manager. She said she is ‘flexible’ about the use of chicken manure, but she called it good fertilizer–and part of life in the country.
“Some officials see it that way, too, portraying the dispute as an instance of citified suburbia butting heads with the realities of country life.
“‘We’ve got a lot of ‘come-heres’ that move out into the country because they want the wide-open spaces, but then they don’t want to deal with the unpleasant things that, once or twice a year, come with that,’ said Glenn Martin, a compliance coordinator for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services who has investigated the Evans Avenue case and found no wrongdoing.”
The report added:
“The residents of the neighborhood, many of whom grew up in the rural county or are familiar with farms, dispute the notion that they have overly sensitive noses and say they think there’s a happy medium to be found between town and country.
“‘We’re not anti-farm,’ said Ann Zimmer, who lives with her husband, Carl, a retired federal employee, across the road from the pasture where the chicken manure has been spread. ‘Carl and I grew up on farms.’
“Residents and Horng agree that the dispute began a few years back when the Horngs began using chicken manure to fertilize their hayfield, which alternately is used to graze the more than 150 cattle kept on the 230-acre property. The land includes a stream that drains into a reservoir used by the Town of Warrenton.
“Marie Horng is a registered nurse; her husband, Fang, is a doctor. They live in Page County and hire a farm manager to oversee the farm, which they bought in 1992 for $1.1 million, according to county land records. The previous owner never used chicken litter, neighbors said, so when it first was used on the rolling field, residents noticed.
“‘It was just terrible,’ said Jean Hines, another Evans Avenue resident, who has lived in the neighborhood for 22 years. ‘At first, we had no idea what it was.’
“Jesse Grimes, a North Carolina State University associate professor who studies poultry waste and its uses, said that chicken litter seems to smell so much worse than the manure of cows and some other animals because of the chicken’s metabolism.
“‘You just end up with different compounds,’ Grimes said. ‘Uric acid is more common in the chicken litter, and you have more ammonia there.’
Grimes said that despite the strong odor, there is no real health risk associated with the spreading of chicken manure in normal concentrations. But he said that high levels of nitrogen-containing and phosphorus-containing compounds in the waste could pose a danger to water supplies.”
The report said:
“When the Evans Avenue neighbors first complained about the smell and potential risk almost three years ago, local officials referred the matter to the state. Martin was called out to investigate, and he found that the farm, run for the Horngs by farm manager John Shirley, complied with all the existing regulations, state and otherwise, and that local water was not in danger.
“‘Mr. Shirley had done an excellent job of maintaining a buffer area along the stream to prevent litter from polluting the stream in the fields that I inspected,’ he wrote in a March 1999 letter to a neighbor.
“In an interview, Martin said, ‘I think it’s more a matter of the smell.’
“Some of the neighbors agree: ‘It’s embarrassing. You can’t have people over because you can’t go outside,’ said Jean Hines.
“‘It’s like a Port-a-John that’s been left outside for a couple weeks and nobody’s cleaned it,’ said her husband, Bill, a retired CIA employee.
“Jerry Poston, a Virginia Power Co. employee, said the smell was ‘unbelievable,’ even for a ‘country boy’ like himself.
“‘I don’t want you to get the impression that we’re a lot of city people that aren’t used to farm smells,’ said Poston, 48, who did battle with the smell during his recent Mother’s Day party. ‘I grew up in this county, near Rectortown, and I’m used to people spreading cow manure. But this, it’s like night and day.’”
The report said:
“Other localities across Virginia have confronted the issue and taken varying steps. The Town of Luray, near the Horngs’ home, prohibits bringing chicken waste in from beyond town limits as part of an ordinance passed in 1997 to combat the odor and potential risk to the water supply.
“‘It’s unpleasant,’ said Luray Town Council member Jacob R. Bunch, who voted for the ban. ‘We have a lot of tourist traffic here, and it doesn’t sit well to have anything such as animal waste odor floating around. But this is my own thinking, now.’
“The Page County Board of Supervisors, however, declined to take similar actions to curtail the use of chicken litter, a byproduct of the many chicken houses in the county.
“Fauquier County Supervisor Harry Atherton (I-Marshall), a cattle farmer himself, said the county is not likely to intervene in this instance.
“Atherton, chairman of the county’s Agricultural Committee, said he had a neighbor who uses chicken waste as fertilizer—‘and I can tell you, it’s impactive.’
“But, he said, ‘nasty as it is for a couple of weeks, it goes away. . . . That’s the trade-off. In any suburbanizing county, there are going to be conflicts, interfaces that are not all that happy.’”
Noxious Odor In A Maryland Town
Another report by The Washington Post in 2019 (A mysterious, ‘noxious’ odor is keeping people awake in a Maryland town, by Dana Hedgpeth, September 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-mysterious-noxious-odor-is-keeping-some-residents-awake-in-a-maryland-town/2019/09/05/d7a4e37e-cffc-11e9-b29b-a528dc82154a_story.html) said:
The town of Cheverly in Prince George’s County — population 6,173 — has a strange new odor that’s been so strong at times that it’s awakened some sleeping residents, and town officials say they’re trying to figure out what it is.
Officials said in a statement on the town’s website that some of the odors have “also caused residents to gag and experience a burning feeling in the back of the throat.”
In the posting that went up Wednesday, they said the reports of the smell started Tuesday evening but that it’s not clear where the stench is coming from.
Officials said they have reported the conditions to the state’s Department of the Environment and also reached out to the local fire department, Washington Gas, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Pepco.
“Our conversations have stressed that residents have been experiencing noxious odors sufficient to wake them out of their sleep,” town officials said.
Several agencies said they had responded to the area for complaints of the bad odor and investigated but had not determined the cause.
Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County fire department, said in an email that HAZMAT crews had checked the area and “could not determine the source” of the odor.
At Washington Gas, Bernie Tylor said in an email that the agency sent crews to the area after getting complaints, but the crews determined that the odor was “not to be attributed to natural gas.”
At WSSC, spokeswoman Lyn Riggins said her agency was also involved in trying to figure out the source of the bad smells and had sent crews out last weekend to check, finding nothing. She said Friday that crews had also checked 36 manholes, particularly in the Euclid Street and Crest Avenue areas. Again, no source was found.
Riggins said crews looked at sewer discharge, checked for strange odors and smells, and “didn’t see anything out of the ordinary” in their multiple checks.
Adverse Environmental Conditions impact Angelenos
A LABarometer survey finds adverse environmental conditions impact a growing number of Angelenos. (Press Room, University of Southern California, December 6, 2021, https://pressroom.usc.edu/labarometer-survey-finds-adverse-environmental-conditions-impact-a-growing-number-of-angelenos/)
The second annual USC Dornsife-Union Bank LABarometer survey regarding sustainability and resilience examines how Los Angeles County residents experience and interact with their natural environment in the midst of a warming climate.
Survey topics included: heat and pollution exposure, natural disaster preparedness, pro-environmental consumption, transportation behavior, and the steps residents are taking to prevent climate change from worsening as well as the measures they’re taking to live with the effects of it.
- Half of L.A. County residents avoided going outdoors at some point in the last 12 months because of air quality concerns related to wildfires — a 30% increase from 2020.
- 59% of Angelenos said their next car is likely to be an electric or hybrid vehicle, a 23% increase from 2020. More specifically, 4 in 10 Angelenos expect their next car to be zero-emission, a 24% increase from 2020. That’s in line with the percentage of all U.S. residents who say their next car will be electric, according toPew Research Center.
- 75% of Angelenos now say climate change is caused mostly by human activity, up 3 percentage points from 2020. That’s significantly higher than the 60% of U.S. residents who acknowledge global warming is mostly caused by human activities, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
- Black Angelenos are much more likely to work outdoors, unsheltered, and thereby at greater risk of exposure to harsh environmental conditions. More than a quarter (27%) work outside with no cover, compared to 18% of Latinos, 15% of whites, and 10% of Asians.
- Since 2020, the percentage of Angelenos who believe climate change is a threat to their well-being has increased 4 points to 77%. The percentage who say local government is doing enough to fight climate change is little changed at 18%.
- Two-thirds of Angelenos say their own actions can make a difference in fighting climate change. Seniors (60+) were 23% more likely than young people (18–39) to believe individual actions could make a difference.
“The startling increase in the percentage of Angelenos who didn’t want to leave their homes because of unsafe air resulting from wildfires really speaks to the growing threat wildfires pose to quality of life in Los Angeles. Compared to just a year ago, our results suggest that more Angelenos are feeling the impact of climate change on their daily lives and plans.”
– Kyla Thomas, director of LABarometer at the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.
“The fact that a large majority of Angelenos expect their next car to be an electric or hybrid vehicle doesn’t just have implications for air quality and the fight against climate change — it raises important questions about urban planning, including what happens to the city’s 500-plus gas station sites when new gas-powered cars are no longer available. The ripple effects from the switch to electric vehicles will be felt across the city for decades to come.”
– Christopher Hawthorne, director of 3rd LA at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Chief Design Officer for the city of Los Angeles.