Rotten-egg odor from Salton Sea prompts air quality warning

Increases in gas concentration at the Salton Sea produced a rotten egg odor in the Coachella Valley this week.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Increased level of hydrogen sulfide in the Salton Sea this week -- marked by the tell-tale “rotten eggs” odor -- prompted officials to issue an air quality warning for the Coachella Valley.

Hourly concentration averages of hydrogen sulfide reached 106 parts per billion Monday night, far exceeding the state standard of 30 parts per billion, officials reported.

Citing the elevated levels, the South Coast Air Quality Management District issued an odor advisory Tuesday, warning residents they could experience headaches and nausea.


Officials said shifting winds could have pushed the rotten-egg odor to the community of Mecca and the Coachella Valley.

The 376-square-mile body of water has been long known for its potential to produce the odor. In 2012, air quality officials tied the odor to dead fish in the sea.

And things could get worse.

A recent report by the Pacific Institute argued that the Salton Sea is entering “a period of very rapid deterioration,” with salinity levels expected to triple in coming years unless something is done to replenish water sources.

Researchers at the institute also warned that additional seabed will also be exposed to the air, leading to 100 tons of dust full of sediment and small-grain particles blowing into the air.

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