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Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 9:44 pm | Partly Cloudy 54º


Noxious Odors in Western Goleta Traced to Ag Well Drilling Operation

A drilling operation for an agricultural well in the Ellwood area is being blamed for a release of hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) that caused a noxious odor over the weekend in western Goleta.

Officials from several Santa Barbara County departments investigated the release, which prompted numerous calls to 9-1-1 on Sunday, according to Gina DePinto, a county spokeswoman.

“During the investigation, inspectors from the Public Health Department … identified the likely source as naturally occurring H2S that was released during drilling of a private agricultural water well,” DePinto said. “At approximately 2:30 p.m. Monday, EHS suspended the well-drilling permit.”

The driller was able to plug the well and stop the flow of water late Monday night, DePinto said, adding that a stop-work order will remain in place until a plan to mitigate the release is in place.

There was speculation that Venoco’s idled Ellwood Onshore Processing Facility might be to blame, but DePinto said investigators determined that was not the case.

Hydrogen sulfide gas produces a sulfurous odor at a low level and health effects at higher levels, De Pinto said.

Those levels range from generating a noticeable odor to generating some temporary health effects, such as nausea, headaches, minor respiratory symptoms, and watery eyes following extended exposure.

Information regarding symptoms of H2S exposure can be found at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.

Information regarding recorded H2S levels and wind conditions are available on the Air Pollution Control District website

Anyone who may be experiencing health effects from breathing H2S should seek immediate medical attention, DePinto added. 

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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