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Mystery Odor Believed to be "Lake Stink"

Mystery Odor Believed to be "Lake Stink"

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Amanda Butterfield / Jed Boal ReportingThere's a stink in the Salt Lake Valley. Investigators with the County Health Department and the Salt Lake City Fire Department say the smell may have just been a bad case of "lake stink."

"It smells like burnt rubber or something like that."

What's more concerning is what that smell is doing to people.

"It's making me nauseous."

Salt Lake City Police Dispatch has received dozens of phone calls about the odor, and so have we. It has a chemical smell to it; burnt rubber is the best way to describe it. It was so bad in one neighborhood Monday night parents were starting to worry about their children's safety.

Incense, fans, one family is trying everything to mask the stink.

Kim, Worried Mother: "At first I thought I missed a dirty diaper or a dirty dish."

Their biggest worry is their young son, Sebastian, because this stench does more then just smell.

Kim: "It's very uncomfortable it hurts lungs, hurts throat."

Everyone is smelling it, and not just in this neighborhood.

Viewers who called us about the bad smell Monday night are located mostly in the city, but one caller complained of it out on 9200 South. That rules out local refineries causing the smell, and the smell is too strong and chemical-like to be the lake. So what is it?

Dennis McKone, SLC Fire Department: "At this point we have no idea."

It's bad enough dispatch got 25 calls on it just Monday evening. Fire crews were sent to a residence to check over a man complaining it was burning his throat and eyes. Questar has been working on the problem too, but it's not from gas.

Dennis Mckone, SLC Fire Department: "It's a kinda new odor to all of us. We're at a loss, really at a loss right now."

Not what you want to hear when you have a baby. Fire crews checked out Kim's house and said they have enough oxygen and will be fine, it's just gonna smell bad for a while.

Kim: "It still smells right now, 12 hours later smells horrible."

Again, if you smell this stench, it may not be a bad idea to stay inside if you have respiratory problems, and report it to your police or fire department so they can make a record of it.

Officials ruled out any possible industrial causes, and although the "lake stink" theory is not conclusive, it's the best explanation they have.

KSL Meteorologist Len Randolph says the weather conditions yesterday afternoon and evening simply don't support the lake stink theory. Winds maxed out at six miles per hour, and that light breeze came predominantly out of the west. It would have pushed any lake stink over the east side, rather than the west side of the valley.

A Valley Health Department investigator says they sniff around for fugitive smells often, and several times a year they come up with no leads or answers.

Stink Suspects:

  • Great Salt Lake
  • Industry
  • Swamp Gas/ Landfill

He says it could be the lake, maybe the smell came from an unfamiliar industrial source, or a combination of swamp gas and garbage from an old landfill buried under airport runways.

But, it's tough to track a smell that wafted away.

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