SALTON SEA – Next time, residents might get some warning before a belch of foul-smelling gas from the Salton Sea hits the Imperial Valley and outlying areas.
Air quality officials this week installed two monitors near the sea to track the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs.
“The Salton Sea is expected to recede dramatically in coming years, and this may bring more foul odors to our communities,” Riverside County Supervisor John J. Benoit, a board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said in a news release
“This air monitoring network will help us communicate with residents regarding the strength and potential health impacts of future odor events.”
The monitoring stations are fallout from the sea’s big release of hydrogen sulfide in September 2012.
The bad odor drifted more than 150 miles across Southern California, through the Banning Pass and into the Temecula, San Bernardino, San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, spurring 235 odor complaints. The gas can cause headaches and nausea, but the district knew of no serious health problems resulting from last year’s event, spokesman Sam Atwood said.
Hydrogen sulfide is a product of decaying dead fish, leaves and other organic matter.
Scientists last year theorized that strong winds from a thunderstorm pushed surface water aside and allowed water from the bottom of the sea to rise to the surface and release hydrogen sulfide.
When fish, plants and other aquatic life die in the water, the organic remains sink to the bottom, where they rot in an environment void of oxygen, experts said last year. Bacteria create hydrogen sulfide as a byproduct. This compound tends to stay trapped at the bottom when the lake is calm. It surfaces when wind creates waves that stir the water.