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Update: Gas Odor in Long Beach Under Investigation

More than 300 callers flooded the 9-1-1 or Long Beach Fire dispatch center in just 3 hours--100 people an hour-as residents arrived home from work to houses reeking of gas. AQMD is probing.

Updates at 12:30 a.m. Friday are in italics.

A foul odor descended on Belmont Shore and East Long Beach Thursday afternoon through evening, prompting more than 300 callers to flood Long Beach Fire Department or 9-1-1 dispatch.

The good news is that it reportedly is not natural gas. The bad news is that officials don't seem to know what it is.

That came from a Long Beach Fire Department dispatcher who would only identify herself as operator 154, though she was happy to offer updates.

"It is not natural gas. That is coming from the Long Beach Gas Dept.," the operator said at about 6:45 p.m.

The Air Quality Management District, or AQMD, later Thursday night said that five investigators were responding to the reports and would probe the origin and nature of the sulfur-like smell, the Press Telegram reported at 8 p.m.

Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Will Nash told the P.T. that a "'vapor cloud' apparently emanating from one of the oil islands moved in the northeast direction from Belmont Pier." 

The Long Beach Gas and Oil Department responded and determined that the smell was not natural gas or caused by a gas leak, Nash said.

As many residents shared with Patch, the sulfur smell is a recurring one, which they've reported periodically with no definitive answers by city or utilities.

The calls began at about 4 p.m. The noxious gas-like smell is "an offshore odor," the operator said. But the source beyond that was not yet known.

"It could be a refinery, a burn-off maybe from an oil island," the dispatcher said.

"People are getting home and smelling gas and being afraid to stay in," she said of the pent up odor trapped in dwellings." The scent is "mainly stayed down in the Belmont Shore area, a little north."

The advice being given to the more than 300 callers in three hours?

Open all your windows to air out your house and let the smell dissipate.

Check back for any further updates here at Patch, where the newsroom shares in your (nose) pain. 

Robin Black October 26, 2012 at 02:09 AM
For these refinery area odors please call the South Coast Air Quality Management District at 1-800-288-7664. They are very helpful and try to track down the offending refinery.
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Did you smell this gassy odor, and what general location are you at?
jd3 October 26, 2012 at 02:12 AM
email says "wreaking"
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Thanks Robin, I hadn't quite got to that, but I will say, the information is never soon enough. Last bad one of these we experienced, we ended up leaving our house and heading to Ruby's to eat there and wait it out. Our neighbors acted like we were crazy. But as a journalism family, we have covered too many disasters to "hope it's nothing." :D
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 02:14 AM
In my haste to get you the news, I hit send before spell-check, but it is corrected!
Murphy Benderson October 26, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Thanks Robin. I called the SC Air Quality Mgmt District about 4:40 PM today and about 6:00 PM a very nice gentleman called me back to say that they were inspecting the odor as we spoke. He wanted to verify my address and ask me some clarification questions. He said he would call me back when they discovered the problem. Not sure if he will, but I thought it was great that they followed up with me. He genuinely seemed concerned and when I thanked him for calling me back, he said he was "just doing his job." Very positive experience.
Ron Antonette October 26, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Yes, Nancy, while bicycling at Willow-Studebaker around 5 pm.
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Wow, that far inland. And it is a non-offshore breeze Santa Ana winds day....
M B October 26, 2012 at 03:04 AM
The gas odor was so strong when I arrived home today around 3:30. This is the second time recently that I have smelled this very strong gas. Opening all of the windows made it worse, as it quickly traveled inside the house. I felt it was better to close all of the windows. I would love to know what this is!!!
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 03:10 AM
MB I asked the operator that, thinking the odor would just flood in. I think personally it would be better to keep things shut til the smell goes away. I'm with you, I want to know what it is.
Murphy Benderson October 26, 2012 at 03:57 AM
I am really bothered about something....when I originally called the City of Long Beach gas department to register my "strong gas odor" complaint, I was told that they have been flooded with calls and are looking into it. When I asked how will we know what they find out and if it is an emergency or not...she said, "you just have to keep calling us back". There has got to be a better way to let Belmont Shore residents know if there is a gas emergency or not. It took me a very long time to get through in the first place, due to all the people calling them. I was so sick at my stomach smelling this for so long, I too shut my windows. A little unnerving.
Manisha Dhanak October 26, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Thanks for the phone number. I have smelled it 4 times in the last 3 months. It is quite nauseating. Next time I will call SQAMD!
Luis October 26, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Sulpher has a very distinct smell this was not sulpher it smelled like natural gas. I know that natural gas is supposed to be odorless and then something is added to give it that distinct smell. This odor had that smell to it. There is something very curious about this. How would they even know it was not natural gas as the gas company was saying when 300 calls were complaining of smelling natural gas? Makes me wonder.
Erin Vidovich October 26, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I live near Willow & Studebaker and also smell that sulpher-like smell from time to time. So it may be a "vapor cloud" from oil islands?? I'll be watching for updates to this article! Thanks!
Ashley Torres October 26, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Last week I went on a train tour of the port of Long Beach. On that tour they pointed out massively huge piles of neon yellow sulfur. My bet is the piles combined with the santana winds blew that stench all over Long Beach.
Jack meoffer October 26, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Ashley, uh, no! Sulfur while in it's physical hardened state does not have much of any smell at all. This is why the workers at that sulfur processing plant and it's thousands of neighboring workers and residents do not have to wear respirators 24/7. Bad bad theory
Allyson October 26, 2012 at 04:37 PM
This stench has not only occurred in Long Beach but Huntington as well. The smelled the same odor described on two different occasions a couple of months ago. Something is definitely going on. Will check back for updates.
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Interesting.
Hank Wise October 26, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Oil islands off gassing...bummer smell...but nothing compared to the bummer that an oil spill would be...yes, i've smelled it in LB and HB
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 27, 2012 at 12:15 AM
You would know as well as anyone, being a surfer in both cities, Hank. :D
Nancy Wride (Editor) October 27, 2012 at 01:40 AM
This news update just in: http://longbeach-ca.patch.com/articles/stench-was-likely-from-ship-offshore-aqmd-air-quality-management-district-ships-smell-foul-odor-long-beach-seal-beach-hydrogen-sulfide-ships-petroleum-sulfur-rotten-egg-smell-ports-offshore-oil-islands-sam-atwood-south-coast

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