Hydrogen Sulfide in Goleta Area


The Goleta area is historically known for hydrogen sulfide (H2S) odors. In recent years, there has been an increase in reports of sulfur odor in this area. Some Goleta-area agriculture users rely heavily on private well water for irrigation. Historically, groundwater in this region contains sulfur compounds including H2S. H2S can be released from the water as a gas and create noticeable odors similar to a “rotten egg” smell.

The District’s Role

This is a multi-jurisdictional issue and the District coordinates with multiple agencies, including Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services, Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner, and the City of Goleta.

For H2S odors, the District has two avenues of enforcement. The first is Rule 310 for Odorous Organic Sulfides. This rule is enforceable if all of the following criteria are met:

  • A single source is verified, and
  • Odors occur at or beyond the property line, and
  • Measurements of H2S exceed the rule’s concentration limit

The second option is Rule 303 for Nuisance. This rule is enforceable for H2S odors if all of the following criteria are met:

  • A single source is verified, and
  • The source is not an agricultural operation

The District has a handheld Arizona Instrument Jerome (J-605) H2S Analyzer to measure H2S in the ambient air. The handheld analyzer’s detection range is 0.003 ppm–10 ppm. The District uses this equipment to determine levels of exposure and whether the District Odorous Organic Sulfides Rule thresholds have been exceeded (averaging 0.06 ppm H2S over 3 minutes, or 0.03 ppm H2S over 1 hour, at or beyond the property line). The District also has a portable monitor called an AirPointer that can be deployed to measure levels of H2S over a period of time.


To register an air pollution complaint, use our online complaint form or call us at 805-979-8266. Find more information on how to Register an Air Pollution Complaint. The District is not a first responder agency. If you experience H2S odors outside our normal business hours (Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm), dial 9-1-1 for immediate investigation.

If you or your family members are experiencing health effects from H2S exposure, it is recommended that you call 911, seal up your house, and remain inside as much as possible. If the odors continue to cause health effects, you should leave the area and move uphill until conditions improve. Sensitive individuals with more serious or persistent health effects should seek medical attention.

More Resources

Detailed information regarding symptoms of H2S exposure at various concentrations can be found at the federal OSHA website.

More information on H2S can be found at the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website.