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New odor sensors coming to area near Tijuana River Valley to monitor air quality

Communities like Imperial Beach have had issues with odor for quite awhile.
odor sensor for sewage in south bay
Posted at 7:14 AM, Oct 06, 2023

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif, (KGTV) – There’s something in the air in the South Bay, including in Imperial Beach.

“It smells like rotten eggs,” Alfredo Schaffer, an Imperial Beach resident, said.

“So the air quality didn’t seem very bad as a kid. I don’t remember it being this putrid,” Haley Wolf, another Imperial Beach resident, said.

The putrid smell from the sewage spilling into the Tijuana River forces some residents like Wolf, who doesn’t have air condition, to make tough calls.

“So we unfortunately have to close our windows and suffer through the heat with our fans and our air purifiers on because my kids have had pretty bad sinus issues due to the air quality and the sewage,” Wolf said.

The sewage impacts in the South Bay have been an issue for decades. But there’s a buzz in the air to figure out more about the odor people are smelling in the air.

Six new odor sensors from the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District (SDAPCD) will measure the air quality near the Tijuana River Valley by figuring out what’s in it.

“Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide are the main focus for the odors,” Kevin Bradley, a senior chemist at SDAPCD said. “It’s a quality of life issue. It can affect mental health, you know, your appetite, all sorts of different things to be able to smell something that terrible.”

Bradley said things like total volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide will be measured as well.

In a news release the SDAPCD stated, "All these compounds contribute to poor air quality. However, the gasses that are of most concern in the Tijuana River Valley are sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, with hydrogen sulfide being the main culprit that causes the pungent odor associated with sewage and wastewater. Sulfur dioxide typically does not produce odor at ambient levels but can provide additional information on hydrogen sulfide levels."

Hums from the first sensor are being heard in San Ysidro, and plans are in place to bring the remaining sensors in the Tijuana River Valley at Imperial Beach and other parts of San Ysidro.

The goal is to gather and document data from the sensors to show it to those responsible for resolving the sewage impacts.

“To see how well that progress is going and to inform those agencies that have jurisdiction over the wastewater treatments and the odors that are coming from that if more needs to be done,” David Sodemam, Monitoring Division Chief at SDAPCD, said.

Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre has been advocating for more to be done for her community.

Aguirre told ABC 10News these sensors, one of which she says will be at city hall, will give them more data to help them advocate for more money from the federal government and state of emergency declarations from President Joe Biden and the state to fix the problem.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to present hard data to make our case, right? It’s very obvious we are having environmental impacts, public health impacts, impacts to our local economy,” Aguirre said. “If this doesn’t prioritize our crisis here, our emergency that we’re all living and experiencing, I don’t know what will.”

Folks form the SDAPCD told ABC 10News the goal is to have all six sensors set up in the next few months.