Californians Wonder: What's That Stench?
Smell of fish die-off may have traveled 150 miles
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2012 1:07 AM CDT
A fallen tree supports numerous heron nests in the mud of Southern California's Salton Sea.    (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)

(Newser) – Something is rotten in the state of California: A smell like rotten eggs spread across a huge area of Southern California yesterday, prompting hundreds of 911 calls and complaints to air quality authorities, reports the LA Times. Officials initially thought a toxic spill or sewage leak could be to blame, but it appears most likely that the foul stench is coming from the Salton Sea, a saltwater lake around 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the AP reports. "It reeks," says one resident. "It smells like rotten mush."

Experts believe a fish die-off in the lake is responsible for the stink, although it would have to have been carried for an amazing distance. A storm complex in the area Sunday night had winds of up to 60 miles per hour, which could have disturbed bacteria in the sea and carried the smell a long way. "The winds could have stirred up the water," the president of the Sea and Desert Interpretive Association says. "Because the lake is so shallow, and there is 100 years worth of decayed material at the bottom, you'd get that rotten egg smell."