As residents of the Carson area continue to endure a noxious smell coming from decaying organic material in the Dominguez Channel, the city Monday declared a local emergency and urged Los Angeles County, the state and the White House to issue similar proclamations.
“Today the city took a decisive action in declaring a local emergency on behalf of the residents of Carson,” Mayor Lula Davis-Holmes said.
“We are also urging the county, Gov. (Gavin) Newsom and President (Joe) Biden declare a state of emergency as well, to provide access to additional resources for residents and business owners, including but not limited to cutting through red tape to enable the county to move quickly to implement the permanent solution of restoring the channel and implementing environmental remediation.”
Davis-Holmes was joined by members of the City Council in making the local proclamation. It followed a special meeting to address the continuing foul odor, which comes from hydrogen sulfide gas, and which has been described as being akin to the smell of rotting eggs.
Thousands of residents from Carson, West Carson and portions of Gardena, Torrance, Redondo Beach, Wilmington and Long Beach have reported the odor. Some have complained of headaches, burning eyes, nausea and other discomfort.
Carson’s move to declare a local emergency comes days after L.A. County announced “drastic reductions” in the amount of hydrogen sulfide gas emanating from the channel. Still, even low concentrations of the gas are continuing to create a nuisance for nearby communities.
The city, in a statement Monday, said a permanent solution could involve dredging the channel and turning it into “an amenity to the city rather than a detraction.”
However, that would be a complicated, months-long process, according to Mark Pestrella, director of the county Department of Public Works.
He said it would have to be done very carefully to prevent separate environmental problems caused by other chemicals released from the channel. If the channel needs to be dredged, it would involve draining about five acre-feet of water, equivalent to about five Rose Bowls with one-foot deep of water.
In the short term, Pestrella said, Public Works is spraying Epoleon, a natural biodegradable spray that mitigates hydrogen sulfide odor by converting the gas into a byproduct of salt, which the county will remove in a separate process.
The city, meanwhile, is demanding that county, state and federal regulatory agencies with oversight “in, near, or over the Dominguez Channel expedite any and all permitting processes involved in the immediate cleanup and restoration of the channel waters, bottoms, and banks under a state of emergency. ”
The Dominguez Creek is technically under county jurisdiction.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday voted to expedite support for residents in Carson and neighboring communities suffering from the stench. Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Janice Hahn co-authored a motion calling on the Department of Public Works and county CEO to do what it takes to get relief to residents quickly, including directly distributing HEPA air filters and filtration units, handing out hotel vouchers, reimbursing cities for supplies and hiring a third party to administer relief supplies and reimbursement.
More than 2,939 residents have already sought reimbursement for related expenses, Pestrella said.
Twenty-six households have been placed in three hotels, and people can pick up air purifiers at Victoria Community Regional Park, 419 Martin Luther King Jr. St. in Carson.
The county’s Department of Public Health and the Carson City Council had previously declared the foul odor a “public nuisance.”
The health department last week recommended that residents impacted by the odor should avoid prolonged outdoor activities between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., based on patterns seen with air monitoring results, and reduce exposure whenever odors are strong.
The department also urged keeping pets indoors and taking them to the vet if they seem lethargic, have trouble breathing or vomit.
Schools in the area were also urged to exercise discretion regarding outdoor student activities.
The stench has already sparked litigation.
A group of Carson residents has sued a warehouse owner and lessee whom they allege share liability for the stink. The proposed class-action suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court, states that days before the first complaint of odor, a fire broke out at a nearby warehouse containing highly flammable ethanol-based hand sanitizer and that Art Naturals, the warehouse lessee, maintained unsafe conditions, which caused the fire.
The warehouse owners, Prologis Inc. and Liberty Property LP, are co-defendants in the suit. The suit seeks an injunction directing the defendants to pay for residents’ relocation expenses as well as for their future medical monitoring.