Environment & Science

Smell rotten eggs? Odor advisory for areas around Salton Sea in effect until tomorrow

File: Tires line the edge of the Salton Sea where seagulls and California brown pelicans spend their time.
File: Tires line the edge of the Salton Sea where seagulls and California brown pelicans spend their time.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Residents in areas of the Coachella Valley might smell rotten eggs but the odor isn't coming from last week's garbage; it's from the Salton Sea.

Last week, The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued an odor advisory due to elevated levels of a naturally occurring gas which is in effect until Wednesday.

Depending on southwesterly wind patterns, the odor could travel to areas like Palm Springs and Palm Dessert, AQMD's Sam Atwood told KPCC. The gas — hydrogen sulfide — is associated with natural processes occurring in the Salton Sea, he added.

Folks shouldn't be too alarmed, Atwood said. Potential health effects or symptoms, if any, should be minor and short-term. 

“It’s not too likely that there would be health effects other than people smelling an objectionable odor. But there is a small possibility that individuals who might be particularly sensitive could encounter some of the health effects associated with hydrogen sulfide gas odors, which could be nausea, perhaps a headache,” he said.  

Humans can detect hydrogen sulfide odors at extremely low concentrations, according to a statement released by the district.

The district keeps track of gas levels at two monitoring stations in the southeastern Coachella Valley – one very close to the Salton Sea and the other in the community of Mecca, Atwood said, which are there to inform the public.

“It just allows the public to be informed as to what levels are being recorded by our monitoring stations so that they can know, if they detect an odor, that this is likely where it’s coming from,” he said.  

Increased potential for Salton Sea odors occur as the winds shift and also tend to coincide with higher temperatures during summer months, Atwood said. The district issues odor advisories a couple times a year, he added.