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Mystery Odor In San Diego County May Remain A Mystery

First Test Results ‘Inconclusive’


Aired 8/18/11

We'll have to wait until Friday to find out just what a mysterious odor many in San Diego County reported smelling Wednesday afternoon.

Reports of a pungent, chemical or petroleum smell were reported along the North San Diego Coast and later in downtown San Diego and over inland areas. John Adams is the chief of compliance with the San Diego Air Pollution Control District. He said the district took two samples.

"The first test run which was for hydrocarbons proved inconclusive," said Adams. "There were no outstanding peaks of any particular compound that raised our concern." He said the source of the odor hasn't been determined.

"The second compound that we're analyzing for is for toxic compounds," said Adams. "That testing is on-going and we hope to have results by Friday."

Adams said the scent seems to have originated around coastal North San Diego County before spreading to the south and east during the afternoon and early evening. The first reports of the mystery odor came from Del Mar and Solana Beach about 1 p.m. Adams said no one reported any ill health effects.

He said San Diego County personnel checked with the Coast Guard, Lindbergh Field, Camp Pendleton, North Island Naval Air Station and other government agencies, and none had any insight into what might have been behind the foul smell.

"So we're kind of at a loss right now as to a source," he said.

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Avatar for user 'Msscience'

Msscience | August 19, 2011 at 9:56 a.m. ― 5 years, 7 months ago

I read in a UT article that the two samples were collected in the Del Mar area at 5:00pm and 5:30pm. The smell had dissipated by then, as reported by the sample collector. It's unfortunate that the opportunity to analyze the air when the odor was present was lost by this delay. I think the important story now is what will be set up or what will the process be in the future when something like this happens again? I smelled the odor around 2pm and it was extremely strong in my neighborhood. It was a petroleum/fuel product odor, not hydrogen sulfide like which can occur with rotting seaweed.

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