The residents of Carson, California, have had to endure weeks of a foul stench emanating from the Dominguez Channel. The smell, described by locals as similar to rotten eggs, was first reported on Oct. 3. Now, officials say that the stench was caused by waste from a beauty and wellness product warehouse that caught fire and spilled chemicals into a canal.

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The task of determining the cause of the “stench of death” was left to South Coast Air Quality Management District. The agency said on Friday that the warehouse fire on Sept. 30 and subsequent chemical spill caused were at the heart of the matter. The chemicals killed plants and other organisms in and around the canal, producing hydrogen sulfide. This colorless gas is flammable and harmful to human health.

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Since the stench began, Carson residents have reported various symptoms. Many have complained of headaches, fatigue and respiratory problems. Some have endured more serious symptoms, such as constant nose bleeds that require hospitalization.

The air quality was bad enough to force evacuations. At one point, the levels of hydrogen sulfide reached 7,000 parts per billion, over 230 times recommended levels. To mitigate the situation, the county moved about 3,000 people to hotels. Further, 27,000 air purifiers were given to residents to reduce the scent. Despite these efforts, the residents say the scent persists.

One resident told The Guardian that after returning to her home from the hotel, she started experiencing symptoms again. “Over-the-counter medicine doesn’t help,” Carson resident Ana Meni said. “The only relief I have is to get out of the city. The moment I do, the headaches go away,” said Meni.

Since the stench began, the county has spent over $54 million to provide alternative accommodation, clean the channel and purify the air. If issues continue until March, the cost could rise to over $143 million, according to officials. The county has already issued a notice of violation to the companies behind the pollution, though action has not yet been taken.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Laurie Avocado