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Reporting a Smoke, Dust or Odor Complaint


Describe the air quality problem

If you smell a strong odor or see a lot of dust or smoke in your neighborhood, think of ways to describe the emissions and try to identify their source. For example, try to describe if it smells like rotten eggs, spoiled cabbage, burned plastic, ammonia, chlorine, garlic, asphalt, or some other familiar material.  (Information regarding Salton Sea odors.)

Report the problem to 1-800-CUT-SMOG (1-800-288-7664) or through the On-line Complaint System
AQMD accepts air quality complaint calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  During business hours (7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday) your call is answered by an attendant and on-line complaints are received by staff.  During non-business hours an automated voice system, or the on-line system, will prompt you for the following information:

  • The time the air quality incident occurred and whether it is continuing at the time of your call or on-line report
  • The nature of the air quality complaint -- smoke, dust, odor, or other*
  • Whether you have experienced this type of air quality problem in the past
  • The wind direction, if known
  • The name and address of the alleged source and the type of operation, if known
  • Your contact information. 

AQMD maintains complainant personal information, such as name, address and telephone number, as confidential, to the extent allowed by state and federal law. Such information may only be released under very limited and unique circumstances, if required by the California Public Records Act or if requested under a subpoena or used in court proceedings.

Although we accept complaints from anonymous persons, inspectors cannot contact you for additional details or to advise you of findings, if any, from follow-up investigations if this information is not provided.

*Note:  the above links for smoke, dust and odor are to the applicable rules which are PDF files for which a PDF reader is needed. 

Messages received off-hours are routed to a standby supervisor who reviews the complaint and takes appropriate action.  Unless the air quality incident appears to pose a particularly serious threat to the health or safety of the public, the supervisor usually dispatches an AQMD inspector for follow-up the next business day.

How air quality complaints are resolved
Unless you request otherwise, the AQMD inspector assigned to your complaint may call you for additional information before beginning an investigation. While many complaints can be resolved over the telephone and require no additional follow-up, others require additional investigation. If a complaint cannot be immediately resolved by phone, the inspector locates and verifies the alleged source by surveying the suspected area. On verifying the source, the inspector conducts a facility inspection to verify the complaint and determine the cause of the air quality problem.

The inspector documents the findings of the facility inspection, issuing Notices to Comply or Notices of Violation as necessary for violations of the California Health
and Safety Code, AQMD Rules and Regulations, or AQMD permit conditions. After
the investigation, the inspector may contact the complainant to discuss findings.

Some air quality problems,  particularly odors which last for a brief period of time,  dissipate so rapidly that they are very difficult to verify. When complaints like these are reported (especially by drive-by or anonymous complainants, and particularly after hours) there may be no further action other than a follow-up call from an AQMD Inspector. In contrast, if a public nuisance is suspected, an immediate investigation of the alleged source may be necessary.