Coastal Area Odor Complaint Response Information


The SCAQMD has received numerous odor complaints from the Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, and Long Beach areas in the past two years related to a gas/sulfur/chemical type smell.  During these events, the odors are reported to originate along the shoreline and quickly travel through the neighboring cities, eventually dissipating.  Long Beach, Huntington Beach, and Seal Beach fire departments have also reported that their 911 emergency phone lines receive numerous calls for emergency service reporting natural gas leaks during these odor events, prompting them to ask for assistance from the SCAQMD in locating the source.  To date, the source(s) of the odors have not been clearly identified but potential sources are being investigated.  There are multiple sources within the area that have the potential to emit gas/sulfur/chemical type odors, and due to the intermittent nature and unknown source location, it is challenging to assess the cause. 

Complaint Investigations

SCAQMD has responded to the odor complaints along the shoreline by deploying Compliance staff to investigate.  In most cases, the odors have already dissipated by the time they reach the area.  As part of the ongoing investigation into these odors, SCAQMD has taken the following actions:

  • Responded to and investigated all odor complaints near the shoreline area and performed odor surveillance in the surrounding affected coastal communities of Long Beach, Seal Beach, and Huntington Beach (the shoreline complaint area is identified in the yellow highlighted area in the map below). 
  • Enlisted the assistance of the Long Beach, Huntington Beach, and Seal Beach Fire Departments
  • Requested assistance from city, state, and federal agencies to aid in the investigation of the odors and provide additional resources.
  • Conducted plume modeling using wind speed and direction information combined with complaint information during odor events to determine the potential location of the source.
  • Collected and analyzed air samples to determine the types and levels of pollutants that are potentially present during the odor events.

Air Sampling Summary

The SCAQMD  may collect samples as a result of an odor investigation or during routine surveillance activities.   In addition, SCAQMD is working in collaboration with the Long Beach, Huntington Beach, and Seal Beach Fire Departments to collect air samples during their response to 911 calls for natural gas odors. Instantaneous samples (also known as grab samples) are collected when odors are present, and take less than a minute to collect. 

Once a sample is collected, it is delivered to the SCAQMD laboratory for analysis. Instantaneous (grab) air samples were collected on the dates indicated below.  Samples collected in SUMMA canisters were analyzed for the presence of volatile organic compounds. Samples collected in Tedlar bags were analyzed for TRS (total reduced sulfur).  For lab analysis results, click on the link for the type of analysis performed.

Date of sample collection Sample ID# Analyzed for
3/1/2017 1706131 Sulfur
3/1/2017 1706145 GCMS
3/14/2017 1707405 GCMS
3/27/2017 1708705 VOC
4/18/2017 1711009 VOC
5/18/2017 1713806 VOC
5/27/2017 1714806 Sulfur
6/18/2017 1717004 Sulfur
6/18/2017 1717005 VOC
7/2/2017 1719225 VOC
8/28/2017 1724128 Sulfur
8/28/2017 1724129 TCA
8/28/2017 1724129 VOC
9/9/2017  1725204 TRS
9/9/2017 1725325  TCA 
9/9/2017 1725325 VOC
9/10/2017 1725404  VOC 
9/10/2017  1725404  TCA
9/18/2017  1726101 TCA
9/18/2017 1726101 TRS
9/18/2017 1726101  VOC 

Future Steps

As part of the SCAQMD’s ongoing investigation into the source(s), staff are now focusing on the following:

  • Continuing to respond to, and investigate, odor complaints and perform odor surveillance.
  • Requesting further assistance from city, state, and federal agencies to aid in the investigation of the odors and provide additional resources.
  • Continuing to perform surveillance along the shoreline between Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, and Long Beach with a FLIR camera to potentially identify sources venting to the atmosphere.
  • Working with community members for the collection of samples during odor events. 
Coastal odor complaints2