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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 11:12 am | Fair 62º


Santa Maria Odor Complaints Prompt Search for Source

Santa Maria Utilities Department staff members responded this week to more than a dozen odor complaints from residents throughout the community about a rotten egg smell. The source or sources have not yet been identified.

After on-site investigations at multiple addresses and sewer manholes, the staff concluded that the odors are not being generated from municipal sewer pipes or the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

The staff requested assistance from two public agencies. The city contacted the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, which will respond when more than five calls are received, and the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.

Possible culprits, alone or combined, could be agricultural pesticide spraying, fertilizer applications, irrigation with sulfurous water, or even very dry weather drawing sewer gases down to street level from rooftop vents.

Of the complaints received by the city this week, some were from the Westgate development and others were from neighborhoods in the northwest area. City staff checked them all out and concluded that none of the odors was generated by the sewers. All areas have fields nearby that have posted notices about spraying in preparation for strawberries.

The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office staff informed the city that excessive odors can be generated during spraying when the applicators do not use sufficient water during application.

Another potential culprit could be recent winds with very dry air drawing hydrogen sulfide gas (which smells like rotten eggs) up and out of residential rooftop sewer vents. Then these gases may sink back to ground level because they are heavier than air. This seasonal phenomenon has been experienced in other communities in the fall, such as in San Diego County.

Residents who smell objectionable odors can call the APCD at 805.961.8800. The city will supply the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office with addresses of residents making odor complaints to the city, so that the staff can follow up with the permit holders conducting agricultural spraying.

Questions may be directed to the Utilities Department at 805.925.0951, ext. 7416.

Mark van de Kamp represents the Santa Maria city manager’s office.

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