Rotten Egg Smell Plagues Southern California

A rotten egg smell is spreading across southern California, leading residents across hundreds of miles to call 911 and health officials to frantically look for the source of the stink.

The smell has plenty of people fooled, the Los Angeles Times reported. Residents flooded 911 with calls about the rotten egg smell, causing health officials across southern California to scramble to find an answer.

So far, their leading theory as to the source of the rotten egg smell is from Los Angeles where the annual die-off of fish in the Salton Sea combined with thunderstorms and strong winds that blew the smell across the region, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Officials from the Air Quality Management District and other agencies said they had never seen the die-off stink carry this far, however.

“It’s very unusual that any odor would be this widespread, from the Coachella to Los Angeles County,” said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “We’re talking well over 100 miles. I can’t recall ever confirming an odor traveling that distance.”

The rotten egg smell also could have combined with decaying material lying at the bottom of the shallow lake, added Bill Meister, president of the Sea and Desert Interpretive Association. The Salton Sea is only 50 feet deep at its lowest point.

Not everyone thinks the solution to the rotten egg smell is so simple.

“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,” said Andrew Schlange, general manager of the Salton Sea Authority. “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.”

Schlange agreed that other factors had to combine to create such a pervasive rotten egg smell. He thinks a recent heat wave reduced oxygen levels in the lake, causing the dead fish to sink to the bottom and combine with other decomposed material. The thunderstorm would then be able to churn up a more powerful rotten egg smell than usual during the die-off, he said.

The thunderstorm itself needed to be unusually powerful to push the rotten egg smell across southern California, The Christian Science Monitor reported. That is precisely what the recent storm was, with meteorologist Mark Moee from San Diego calling it “”huge, one of the largest that any of us have ever seen in probably 10 years.”