Hundreds of Huntington Beach residents have signed a petition demanding that the local government take action to locate the source of a recurring odor that they say has caused headaches, nausea and sore throats.
Adam Plesniak, a 10-year resident of Huntington Beach, said he started the petition on Change.org hours after he was overtaken by the gas-like odor on Tuesday.
As of Friday afternoon, 396 people had signed the petition.
Residents say no part of the city is immune when the smell hits.
“I’ve lived in Huntington Beach 25 years and am familiar with the occasional ‘gas’ smell from the local oil operations,” one petitioner wrote on the petition. “In the last year, the assault has become so frequent and potent that I now consider it not only aggravating, but increasingly concerning for the health of my family.”
“My kids have been complaining of headaches,” another petitioner wrote. “This seems very dangerous to me. We need to know what is going on and have this stopped.”
Plesniak said he plans to gather as many signatures as possible and then bring the issue to the City Council to “force attention, accountability and action.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Pilot reported in September that residents of Seal Beach, just to the north of Huntington Beach, have also been complaining of a recurring gas-like odor that also was causing nausea and headaches. In fact, it was reported again in Seal Beach on Friday.
The first time Plesniak noticed the odor was about five years ago, but he said its presence has gotten much stronger and more consistent over the past year.
Richard Hart, a 42-year resident of Huntington Beach, said he’s been suffering headaches, a sore throat and nausea from the overwhelming smell. He agrees with Plesniak that the odor has been around for a few years but has become stronger and more frequent over the last couple of months.
Hart has reported the incidents to authorities, but he said they never have definitive answers about the odor’s cause.
Hart said he’s tracked 16 occurrences since May and noted that the odor generally arises during the workweek between noon and 4 p.m.
“Some say it’s nature emitting gas from the sea floor,” he said. “I believe it is man-made. I don’t believe nature is that consistent.”
The smell was so strong Tuesday that Barbara Rose thought she had a gas leak in her home.
“I’m almost 80 so this really affects me,” she said. “I had a terrible headache.”
Rose, who has lived in Huntington Beach for 45 years, said she now has to prepare for the odor by closing all her windows and turning on all her fans.
Sergio Jimenez, a spokesman for the Southern California Gas Co., said the natural gas provider received several calls from Tuesday through Thursday regarding a suspicious gas-like smell in Huntington Beach. He said the company determined the smell was not natural gas.
Huntington Beach fire Battalion Chief Jeff Lopez said the department responds to reports of a widespread gas-like odor about eight to 10 times a year, receiving hundreds of calls from residents each time.
Lopez said the department has not been able to determine the cause of the odor but it appears to be “relatively harmless.”
There have been several theories about cause, but gas releasing from offshore oil tankers is the most likely, Lopez said.
The odor seems to move with the wind, so Lopez believes the cause is offshore.
Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said the organization had received several complaints from Huntington Beach residents about odors since Nov. 13.
Investigators were sent to the area but were unable to identify a cause, Atwood said.
Atwood said the presence of bad odors in the area is a “periodic phenomenon” that the AQMD deals with.
The AQMD received several reports of a bad smell in Seal Beach on Friday afternoon, Atwood said. Investigators were sent to the site to take samples, Atwood said.
Atwood did not know if the odor was related to the Huntington Beach smell.
Seal Beach city officials worked with the AQMD but have not isolated the odor, Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos said.