‘THE STENCH’: How to cope if it drifts your way

(Photo by Jamie Kinney, from early July)

Now that we’re back in a multi-day stretch of warm, dry weather, there’s a chance – especially in light of algae blooms like the one shown above – that “the stench” could recur along West Seattle’s west-facing shores. Fauntleroy-residing writer Judy Pickens shares some backstory and coping strategies:

After a seven-year hiatus, the summer “stench” was back in 2018 and is again evident to residents near Fauntleroy Cove and along Beach Drive. Sea lettuce is flourishing with heat from the sun and ample nutrients in the water and, when the green mats dry on the beach at low tide, they give off hydrogen sulfide gas.

First documented in the early 1980s, the noxious gas can irritate eyes, cause headaches, and even prompt vomiting. Heavy and colorless, it can persist in basements and other low-lying sites.

After years of seeking relief at local and state levels, the Fauntleroy Community Association gained an understanding of the situation but little more, including why we had no stench for those seven years. Now the State Department of Ecology has a unit monitoring algae blooms and accepting reports.

Here are precautions to take if you turn out to be in the stench zone:

*Avoid being outdoors and close windows and doors an hour or so either side of low tide.

*Use a large fan to clear the air in bedrooms before retiring for the night.

If the stench is especially strong, leave home for a few hours if you can.

5 Replies to "'THE STENCH': How to cope if it drifts your way"

  • Apey July 25, 2019 (4:31 pm)

    I’ve noticed when I walk in the Brace Point area the smell is frequently almost unbearable. Almost makes the amazing views not worth it!

  • Roger Helton July 25, 2019 (5:26 pm)

    Thank you West Seattle blog. Drove down Beach Drive this afternoon admiring the amazing houses with their spectacular views and then… “Whoa. What in the h*ll? What is that – that stench?” Now I know. 

  • Mj July 25, 2019 (5:48 pm)

    I was wondering what smelled intermittently earlier today at Alki.  Thank you.

  • Barbara Armo July 25, 2019 (7:16 pm)

    For ages people insisted the stench, which was overwhelming, came from the ferries discharging their “tanks” near the ferry dock. The association. was just too easy to make, since  the rank odor seemed all too familiar.  I do not know who finally figured out the truth, and I believe the arrival of cooler weather seemed to work like a charm.A couple of years earlier, I had a similar problem in my North Admiral home.  In mid summer I suddenly had a horrid stench coming from my shower head and the kitchen faucets. Someone from the City came and dutifully took water samples. In the end, the water was deemed safe to consume, and was said to originate from the algae bloom. Where THAT was,  no one could say. Until the problem went away, I used a filter on the kitchen faucet, followed by the Brita pitcher.  During this episode, I was the only one in my household and amongst the neighbors who detected anything wrong. Go figure.

  • Barb July 26, 2019 (9:59 am)

    I wonder if the recent dump of sewage from the Renton and Seattle treatment facilities contribute to the bloom and smell. https://komonews.com/news/local/3-million-gallon-sewage-spill-causes-several-puget-sound-area-beaches-to-close

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