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What Is That Awful Smell Near the YMCA and Crown Valley Parkway?

There has always been a strong odor emanating from an area near Crown Valley Parkway and Niguel Road. Patch learns what it is.

For years, an area behind Crown Valley Community Park near the and has been producing a rather noxious odor that doesn't seem to want to go away.

On any given day, residents get a strong whiff of what often resembles rotten eggs if they are in the vicinity of Crown Valley Parkway and Niguel Road. The odor is actually hydrogen sulfide, a colorless gas that at best does smell like rotten eggs.

Jennifer Heinen, director of the said, "We always smell it but it tends to be really bad after it rains. It's an odd odor and every once in a while, a guest will make a remark about it. It's just something that we are used to even though it is awful."

Added John I., who works at located in The Village shopping center, "It has been like that for at least 10 years and customers always come into the store asking why the store smells. There are 16 businesses here in the center and we all know the smell, it is awful. It has been like that every day that I have come to work and it never gets any better."

City Manager Tim Casey said that this is an area that the city has received complaints about from time to time, and that there are three different possibilities that might be causing the smell:

  • The sewage treatment plant in the area, located between the north end of Crown Valley Park and the south end of
  • The sewage system that runs under the road there and tends to emanate a smell from the manhole covers or;
  • The natural smell of the adjacent Sulphur Creek itself.

Casey said that while the city has been aware of the problem over the years, it hasn't received much communication over it lately.

"The last mention of a smell at that area was an anonymous letter that we received at the to complain about a continuous odor problem at that same intersection," he said.

If the smell is coming from the adjacent creek, then Casey said the smell is no surprise. The odor is just something that naturally exudes from Sulphur Creek, and gives credence to its name.

If the smell is coming from the sewage system in the area, then that is the responsibility of , and Casey said that the water district has taken steps in the past to mitigate.

"They did install a device in the past that was designed to scrub the odor from the water in the area, but that device has since been removed. You'll have to ask them why," he said.

Bob Gumerman, Moulton Niguel Water District General Manager, said that it is currently in the process of updating equipment that is designed to stop the smell, which is why some of the equipment has been removed.

According to Gumerman, hydrogen sulfide, which is being released from the wastewater at that intersection produces the smell. This gas is being generated from two lift stations in the area. Lift stations contain pumps, valves, and electrical equipment necessary to pump water or wastewater from a low elevation to a high elevation.

MNWD has been attempting to stop this problem by installing oxygen generating equipment at those two lift stations, he said. The oxygen generators help stop the hydrogen sulfide gas from forming. Installation of the new equipment should be completed by the end of November.

"Unfortunately, at the very end of the installation it is necessary to remove the original oxygen generator, and this is the cause of the odors at the present time. The situation may last for another two weeks," he said.

Gumerman stressed that MNWD is firmly committed to solving the problem.

"MNWD has spent several million dollars to date. The situation is substantially better than it was in 2001, but we are committed to an ultimate solution."

Barton Mac Leod and Debbie L. Sklar contributed to this report.

Bill Clements November 14, 2011 at 02:27 PM
I have lived in that area 30 years. It never smelled that bad until they designed the new car wash. Where does there chemicals go after each wash?
Rosie Garcia November 14, 2011 at 04:43 PM
We've lived near Crown Valley & Niguel for 28 years and I worked for MNWD many years ago. It's the manhole cover at the intersection and it has gotten worse - great reporting - it is obviously the removal of the system that was working better than nothing. Hopefully, their new solution will solve it in a better way for a longer time. I never bother to complain, but it is terrible. I really appreciate Debbie doing the research!
Debbie Tharp November 14, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Good question Bill. I will ask. When did they put in that new carwash?
Debbie Tharp November 14, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Thank you Rosie. I have to say that Bob Gumerman at the water district was all over this when I asked him about it. He is very excited about the installation of the new equipment that is currently taking place, since he has been working on this problem since 2001. We are definitely planning on following up on this over the next couple of weeks to make see how this works out.
jeepgrl November 14, 2011 at 04:55 PM
there is a similar smell coming from the area of Moulton and El Toro - I used to live in 'new world' and its terrible - smells like something is rotting...wonder if this is the same issue?
Debbie Tharp November 14, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Just want to bring it to readers' attention, it was our wonderful photographer Barton Mac Leod that brought this story to us, and our editor Debbie Sklar put in a huge amount of time on this story. This one was definitely a Patch team effort, whatever the byline says, and I LOVE working with this team!
Debbie Tharp November 14, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Might be jeepgrl. I'll ask Bob.
Barton Mac Leod November 14, 2011 at 09:26 PM
You can see the second video. The water channel ends at that location and since there is no exit for the water, it's backed up and stagnated. This is man made and totally ignored for years. The trees at the water edge are dead. If this was your back yard you would get cited and the EPA would be on your door. "Do what I say, Not what I do" ....
Bill Clements November 15, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Barton very true! We used to crawl in those water channels as children. Never had the smell like is there today. That carawash was rebuilt 3. To 4 years ago. It was also upgraded around ten years ago. I hope the city and water district find a solution.
Bill Clements November 15, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Great article you guys!!!!
Tom Berney November 15, 2011 at 02:51 PM
It's so bad that I hold my breath and pray for a green light, it's gotten to the point that I won't go in the business in the plaza, now that's something the owners should be aware of, How frustrating that year after year it's there and nothing has been done.
Barton Mac Leod November 15, 2011 at 03:39 PM
It's hard to believe that this would happen in Laguna Niguel and for years. The water channel dead ends toward the YMCA and the water just sits there resulting in killing all the trees. Do you think you could get away with this if this was your back yard ? This is all man made created.

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