Oily odor lingers near Iwilei shopping development
What is causing that sickening, putrid odor in the Costco/Home Depot/Weyerhauser area in Iwilei, and who is responsible for it? Whenever we go to Costco, we park in the area bounded by Costco's loading dock, Home Depot's parking lot and Dole Cannery. The odor is always present and actually smells "oily." My husband, who used to work at Pearl Harbor, says it smells like the grease that gets trapped in storm drains or cleaned out from restaurants. Some days the odor is not so prevalent, but when the trades are gone, the odor just hangs in the air.
Answer: The state Department of Health says it can't determine the exact cause of that odor, but has contacted the city to check the storm drain on Costco's property.
"There could be a number of reasons for the smells in the area," said spokeswoman Janice Okubo.
A Clean Air Branch inspector checked on your complaint on May 23.
The inspector took a reading for hydrogen sulfide along Alakawa Street by Nimitz Highway, Home Depot and Costco, Okubo said.
The H2S readings were "very low" -- ranging from 0 to 8 parts per billion, she said.
At that level, H2S odors -- akin to rotten eggs -- are considered a nuisance and not a health threat.
The state ambient air quality standard limit is 25 ppb.
"However, there was a higher reading right at the storm drain at the Costco loading dock area," Okubo said. "The storm drain was the only area with a high H2S reading."
Based on that, the inspector asked the city to check that drain.
Hydrogen sulfide has a noxious smell produced by the bacterial breakdown of organic matter, Okubo explained. It is commonly found around sewage treatment plants, septic tanks, decaying fish, manure and volcanoes.
It also is produced by human and animal wastes, Okubo said.
Low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide can cause the eyes, nose or throat to become irritated, she said.
Although humans can detect hydrogen sulfide at a very low "nuisance" level -- 0.005 parts per million -- that is well below levels shown to cause adverse health effects, Okubo said.
"Brief exposures to the nuisance levels at the Iwilei area should not pose adverse health effects," she said.
Meanwhile, based on your complaint, the Health Department asked Costco about its grease traps and was told the one in the meat department is pumped out once a month, while the trap for the food court is pumped out once every three months, Okubo said.
There was no recent pumping of the grease traps when you detected the odor on May 11, she said.
Okubo said the Clean Air Branch has not received a complaint about smells in the area for the past couple of years.
If you or anyone else has questions about air quality, call the branch at 586-4200.
Got a question or complaint?
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