Carson’s Sewage Stench Sparks Calls for State of Emergency

”The lack of a swift response by the responsible government agencies has been very disappointing,” says Rep. Nanette Barragan

Residents of Carson and surrounding areas are literally sick of the stench of putrefying sewage that has been plaguing them for more than two weeks now, and Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro) is asking Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency so that federal and state resources can be rushed to the community.

“The lack of a swift response by the responsible government agencies has been very disappointing,” Barragán wrote in a letter Newsom Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports, adding that the foul situation is an “issue of health and environmental injustice.”

The putrid gas causing locals to suffer burning eyes, nausea, headaches and dizziness is hydrogen sulfide produced by decaying vegetation in the Dominguez Canal—made worse by the drought because there’s hasn’t been enough rain wash away the rot. Commonly known as “sewer gas,” hydrogen sulfide is the same ingredient that makes quality stink bombs so effective, and it’s also the primordial scent that triggers the human instinct to avoid decaying matter. So it’s no wonder Barragán thinks officials have been dragging their feet.

The retched stink was first reported to the South Coast Air Quality Management District on October 3, but county crews didn’t start treating the flood control channel for another 12 days, and the Carson City Council failed to declare the odor a public nuisance until October 11.

Despite the fact that many people in the affected areas don’t have air conditioning, the only advice Los Angeles County health officials have dolled out so far is that people close their windows or relocate for a while. And although those officials say residents can be reimbursed for the cost of air filters or hotels, Barragán points out that this solution doesn’t do any good for people who can’t front that money.

“Unfortunately, this plan provides insufficient relief and is inequitable to low-income residents,” Barragán wrote. “Many of my constituents cannot afford to purchase an air filter or pay hotel expenses for a long duration. These residents need direct aid, which is why I am asking you to declare a State of Emergency so that residents can receive direct relief and not be indebted by this event.”

At a special meeting Thursday, the Carson City Council—which approved its own $100,000 reimbursement plan—announced that it, too, would appeal to Newsom to declare an emergency. By that point, the South Coast air district had already received 2,000 complaints.

Long Beach officials, who say they’ve fielded about 125 complaints, have also asked for assistance from state and federal environmental protection agencies.