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Foul odor reported off Santa Monica Bay; methane from ocean blamed

March 3, 2013 |  2:28 pm

Coastal residents near Santa Monica awoke to a foul odor Sunday that probably was caused by a large release of methane in the ocean, authorities said.

Fire departments in Los Angeles and Santa Monica began receiving calls shortly after dawn from residents as far north as Sunset Blvd. and south of Venice Beach reporting a rank smell blowing in off Santa Monica Bay.

A Santa Monica fire hazardous-materials team took readings off the coast near San Vicente Blvd. and found methane in the water, said communications officer Justin Walker.

The amounts, however, were too small to be hazardous to health, he said. No illnesses were reported.

Recent shifts in water temperature might have caused plankton and algae beds to bloom, releasing methane just under the surface, Walker said. The gas also might have been produced by a geologic event, such as a shift in tectonic plates, he said.

“We usually have this happen about twice a season,” Walker said. “There’s no special way of telling where or when it will happen. When we were getting south, southeast winds blowing into the city, we’d get the calls, when they shifted westerly, the calls would stop.”

As of midday, readings indicated the methane had dissipated, he said.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District reported no complaints of odors, according to a spokesman, but sent an inspector to investigate.

Last September, air quality officials traced malodorous fumes that besieged the L.A Basin to decaying matter in the Salton Sea, more than 150 miles from Los Angeles. 

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-- Carla Rivera

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