A public meeting on Noxious Odors was held on March 7, 2018 at the Goleta City Hall Council Chambers. See video on City of Goleta website; click on “Special Event” link in “Sections on this page:” box on the right side of the screen. 

Recent Events

In February 2018, the District received and responded to numerous complaints of a “rotten egg” smell, or hydrogen sulfide (H2S), from an area in western Goleta. The District did not find a source of the odors.

The Ellwood Onshore Facility (an oil and gas plant in Goleta) was not the source of the odors, however fence-line monitors installed at the facility (see map) detected H2S in the ambient air in February 2018. Readings exceeded the alarm threshold of 0.3 parts per million (ppm) H2S multiple times between 6:00 am and 7:35 am on February 14, 2018. The highest reading was 0.8 ppm H2S at 7:22 am on February 14, 2018. At this level, most individuals can smell the odor and some may experience symptoms such as headaches and nausea. However, the symptoms associated with this level of exposure are temporary and do not cause any long-term health effects.

The District’s Role

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
  • Odors occur at or beyond the property line
  • 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
  • The source is not an agricultural operation

Background

This part of the coast is historically known for H2S odors. In recent years, there has been an increase in reports of sulfur odor in western Goleta. Some Goleta-area agriculture users rely heavily on private well water for irrigation. Historically, groundwater in this region contains sulfur compounds including H2S. With the recent drought, some ranchers are drilling deeper than before and are more likely to encounter groundwater containing H2S. H2S can be released from the water as a gas and create noticeable odors similar to a “rotten egg” smell. Use of sprinklers may increase the release of sulfur odors during irrigation.

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).

Complaints

To file a complaint with the District, call (805) 961-8810. Find more information on the District’s Complaints Process.

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.

2017 Hydrogen Sulfide Odors

In October and November 2017, the District received and responded to numerous complaints of a “rotten egg” smell, or hydrogen sulfide (H2S), from an area in western Goleta. The District identified the source as coming from irrigation from an agricultural operation. See the press release issued October 10, 2017 by Santa Barbara County. Throughout the 2017 events, all of the levels measured by District inspectors were well below levels that allow the District to take further action.

2016 Hydrogen Sulfide Odors

In October 2016, the District and other agencies investigated a release of H2S in an area in western Goleta. The source was determined to be naturally occurring H2S that was released during drilling of a private agricultural water well. See County Officials Determine Water Well as Source of H2S Odor. To stop the odors, drilling ceased and the agricultural water well was plugged.

The Ellwood Onshore Facility was not the source of the odors, however, fence-line monitors installed at the facility (see map) detected H2S in the ambient air from the agricultural water well drilling H2S release.

See below for the Ellwood fence-line monitor data for times when the readings exceeded the alarm threshold of 0.3 parts per million (ppm) H2S. Dates and times not included in the tables below had readings of 0.0, 0.1 or 0.2 ppm H2S.

Sunday, October 9, 2016 AM
Sunday, October 9, 2016 PM
Monday, October 10, 2016 AM
Monday, October 10, 2016 PM
Tuesday, October 11, 2016 AM

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.