Friday, October 30, 2009

The Smell That Ensnared Mission Viejo


November 11, 2009 - It's RALLY TIME, people! See the newest post for details:

The Santa Margarita Water District is supposed to have an update this afternoon (10/30) on their progress for correcting the "algael bloom" and how long until we can go outside again without it smelling like a giant rotten egg. Check or call them:
949-459-6420 (Business hours)
949-361-6294 (After hours)

Hit the "Samuel L. Bronkowitz" title at the top of this page to take you to the other updates on the main page of this blog.

Mission Viejo, CA stinks. I mean, it reeks to high heaven. There is a sulphurous odor so malignant and intrusive, it has enveloped the neighborhood and penetrated the walls of my house for nearly 48 hours.

My first encounter with the mysterious malodor occured as my wife and I drove home two nights ago. Turning through the intersection at El Toro and Rancho Santa Margarita Pkwy, the air inside our car suddenly became infused with a putrid sulphur smell. Sometimes there seems to be pockets of this nasty smell in various places we drive through and we figured it'd pass. Unfortunately, the smell only intensified the further we drove. Now approaching the intersection of Rancho Santa Margarita and Maguerite Pkwy, the stench was nearly overwhelming.

We pulled into our garage and quickly closed the door, hoping to keep the foul rotten egg smell from invading out house, only to find the inside of the house smelled almost as bad as the neighborhood around us.

"Oh my god," my wife exclaimed, "this smell is TERRIBLE!"

And, indeed it was. Like an invisible Fog of rotting putricity, this sudden, terrible odor had settled upon our neighborhood and invaded our home. I felt bad for our cats who had to be there with it the whole day.

"But, what do I do?" I wondered aloud.

If you want to report a crime, you call the police. A medical emergency or fire? Call 9-1-1. But what do you do when there's an outrageously offensive odor covering at least a square mile of public and private land? I was at a loss. So, I took to the internet.

But I found nothing about it on the mews, the local paper, or an extensve Google search. What could possibly be causing this incredibly bad smell? Settling into bed coughing and trying to ignore the sulphur smell that hung in the room, I figured, maybe there'd be something about it on the news or internet the next morning.

Better yet, maybe it'll blow away in the night.


The next morning, it was still bad. When we got home that night, STILL horrible. I took to the internet again, but this time found a new story from several years ago about a "sulphur" smell that cropped up in another part of the County. It said "to report an odor call the Orange County Water & Santitation district." Perfect!

Unfortunately, the OCWSD serves only part of the County- and not the part I live in. But, they were able to direct me to my water provider -Santa Margarita Water District. NOW, we were getting somewhere. I called SMWD and got their after-hours answering service, who was well aware of the problem from the volume of calls they were getting, but had no idea what was causing it either.

The following morning (the third day now!) the sulphur stench still swallowed the neighborhood. So, I called SMWD back and finally - an answer!

An "algae bloom" in the Upper Oso Reservoir (about 1/2 mile north of my house.) Apparently, the oxygen levels were incredibly low, which gave rise to an (anaerobic?) algae, which was now going gangbusters and sending this ridiculously bad smell into neighboring developments.

Sadly, this story has no ending yet in sight. Although SMWD is responsible for maintaining the Reservoir and is actively working on the algae problem. At this time (1pm on 10/30/09) they did not have an estimate for how long it would take for the smell to dissipate permanently. SMWD said that they are doign something to churn the water in the reservoir which will help re-oxygenate it and get rid of the algae, but that was all the specifics they could give me on the "solution." They did advise that the common green areas in that part of Mission Viejo are fed by water from the Reservoir, so that will continue to perpetuate the stench until the water is cleansed.

So, there you have it.

Anybody else out there smelling this horrible, horrible smell?