Refinery blamed for foul odor

DOWNEY - Many residents and visitors noticed a pungent odor drifting across the City on Tuesday morning and afternoon, with the initial reports coming from the southwest area of the city.The odor had a sulfur-type scent, similar to previous incidents. There were no reported illnesses or injuries as a result of the odor. Prevailing winds ultimately pushed the odor through Downey. Callers from schools, private residences, city facilities and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center all reported the odor as it drifted across town. The Fire Department received many calls for service and dispatched crews to investigate the reported smell. As result of the reports, fire department communication operators contacted the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and asked them to respond with an investigation crew. City administration has contacted the AQMD as well and has requested the placement of air-monitors in the down-wind adjacent areas. The source of the odor was reportedly a refinery operation in a neighboring city. The AQMD is following up with them on their business practices. The AQMD has investigated the refinery in the past as well. The Fire Department responds fire crews to investigate suspicious odor incidents immediately after the problems are reported to the fire dispatch center. However, community members are also encouraged to call the Gas Company and the AQMD immediately when a suspicious odor is detected. Gas Company representatives recommend residents and business owners who believe they smell natural gas immediately call (800) 427-2200 and report their findings. Once notified, a Gas Company service person will investigate the problem. AQMD representatives recommend residents and business owners immediately call (800) CUT-SMOG (1-800-288-7664) to report any suspicious odors. They advised an investigator will respond after the receipt of one phone call during business hours. After hours, the AQMD waits for the third caller before sending out an investigator. Residents can also file written complaints with the AQMD. The AQMD noted they follow up on public nuisance problems when at least 10 residents complain of a problem. Both the Gas Company and AQMD representatives advised residents should call the 24/7 phone numbers listed above when they first notice the suspicious odors. On Tuesday, several community members called the Downey police and fire communications centers and several more called City Hall. Despite the requests for the callers to call the 1-800-CUT-SMOG number as well, few callers made the second call. It is important to note that the AQMD relies heavily on individual reports from the community during their investigations. Residents are encouraged to make the AQMD call when they detect an odor. Questions on the odor investigations in Downey can be directed to ready@downeyca.org. Mark Sauter is deputy city manager of emergency preparedness for the City of Downey.

********** Published: February 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 45