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Salton Sea to get ‘stench detectors’

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Dead fish and garbage in the Salton Sea, seen in this 2001 AP photo.

Dead fish and garbage in the Salton Sea, seen in this 2001 AP photo.

DIAMOND BAR (CNS) – Months after a nasty stench was traced from the San Fernando Valley 150 miles to its origins in the Salton Sea, local smog regulators have approved a $200,000 stink monitoring system, it was reported Saturday.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District will establish two station near the salty inland lake to warn people when the stench of decaying organisms at the lake reaches critical levels, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

On Sept. 9, tons of rotting fish and algae rose to the surface of the Salton Sea, and very-noticeable levels of hydrogen sulfide — rotten egg smell – – blew through Indio, Palm Springs, Riverside, Pomona and the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.

Hundreds of worried people jammed 911 lines, and it took two days for the smog agency to track the stinky source down. The new monitoring system is needed to let fire agencies know if any future stinks are from the lake or from oil refineries or an industrial accident, said AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood.

The Salton Sea stink issue is expected to worsen as the lake shrinks, due to freshwater diversions from Imperial Valley farms into aqueducts feeding San Diego. Coastal water agencies in San Diego have purchased Colorado River water from El Centro-area farms that formerly flushed their fields with water, which had then flowed into the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea was a dry lake bed until developers accidentally flooded it with Colorado River water a century ago. The diversions to San Diego have prompted worries that the declining water level will cause dust storms and occasional stink storms as animals die and rot by the millions.

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