Huntington Beach

Mystery Odor Sickens Huntington Beach Neighbors

An online petition hopes to gather enough signatures to force city officials to investigate

Residents of an Orange County neighborhood say they have been sickened by a mysterious odor and no one seems to know what it is or where it's coming from.

What makes the odor difficult to identify is the inconsistency of the smell. It can appear every few weeks or every few months. Sometimes just closing doors and windows is enough, but other times residents say it's overwhelming.

Many in the Golden View neighborhood of Huntington Beach have a theory on where the gas smell could be originating. Chidem Coyle believes it's her neighbor's extensive remodel.

"It was a very sharp gas smell," Coyle said. "We thought new neighbor installing something."

But Rhonda Wainwright says it comes and goes like an intense odorous tide.

"Overwhelming fumes that hit you so hard where your eyes start to burn, you get a bloody nose, throat burning, immediately sick to your stomach," Wainwright said.

She says even her dog, Otis, became ill.

The Air Quality Management District logged 40 complaints to it's hotline in one day last month, from as far north as Belmont Shore. But the agency contends the human nose is more sensitive to smell and its air quality monitoring equipment could not detect a source.

Wainwright, who lives three miles from the ocean, was told the source may be offshore from tankers at sea releasing gas, to the oil derricks off Seal Beach.

This is kind of the epicenter where all the complaints are so this notion that its coming from off shore is a little bit suspect.

Huntington Beach Fire Chief Bill Reardon says there have been 911 calls for months, but none that prompted a hazardous materials response.

"Typically by the time they get out there it's disappeared or so slight that our air monitoring equipment wouldn't be able to capture the gaseous odors or whatever it is that's causing the odors," he said.

An online petition hopes to gather enough signatures to force city officials to investigate.

If the source can be found, jurisdiction could become an issue. The AQMD only deals with air quality on land. If the odor originates off shore, it might be an issue for an agency like the Coast Guard.

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