Every time I drive across the “High Bridge” on the southeast end of Bodo Industrial Park, a foul odor invades my vehicle. It smells like the sewer plant during tourist season. Where is this stench coming from and why is nobody doing anything about it? What is being dumped in the river? Why has no one else complained? – Sign me “Offended”
Action Line has a nose for news, and this situation just didn’t pass the smell test.
Something is indeed rotten in Durango. But it’s not what you think.
Rest assured, ne’er-do-wells are not dumping fetid waste in the Animas River within the city limits.
North of town, in the super-fun high country around Silverton, it’s a different story.
At least poisonous orange heavy-metal mine discharge doesn’t reek. So we got that going for us.
Also on the positive side, authorities are well-aware of the miasma, and warnings have been posted for several years.
Drive down La Posta Road just south of Bodo and you’ll see several ominous signs installed across from the Durango Gun Club.
The signs. Not the Gun Club.
The riverside signs begin with the word “DANGER” in red.
When a sign’s salutation reads “DANGER,” what follows is generally not very cheerful.
And so it is along La Posta Road. “Harmful levels of hydrogen sulfide are seeping from the ground,” the signs say.
People and pets “should avoid or quickly pass through any location in this vicinity where you smell a rotten egg odor.”
Exposure could cause nausea, eye and lung irritation and headaches “even with brief exposure,” the signs caution.
And finally, the signs direct anyone with questions to call Butch Knowlton, the county’s director of emergency preparedness.
So we did.
Butch said the seepage of hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally along a coal seam that’s part of the geologic formation called the Fruitland Outcrop.
The coal seam can be seen at Colorado Highway 3 and U.S. Highway 550/160 intersection, where that annoying traffic light is located.
Mrs. Action Line really detests that traffic light. If you turn left exiting Home Depot or Wally World, it always seems to turn red exactly when you get there, as if it were timed to be a hassle.
But that’s just venting. Kind of like the hydrogen sulfide.
The outcrop runs from the annoying light, west across the river and toward the gun club.
“People notice the smell more this time of year,” Butch added.
“Hydrogen sulfide is heavier than the atmosphere, so it sinks. Combine that with colder weather, and the gas can pool and hang along the ground.”
Action Line caught a whiff of rotten eggs inspecting the warning signs along La Posta Road. It wasn’t that bad.
But, as they say, the gas is always keener on the other side.
Across the Animas, the seepage in the vicinity of the annoying light can be far stronger than the riverside emissions, Butch said, adding that there’s not much you can do other than let the fumes dissipate.
“We did some testing with monitoring equipment several years back, and the hydrogen sulfide from that location was so high it actually broke our sensors,” he said.
Butch shared its location with Action Line. But that’s as far as it goes.
If that seep’s coordinates are revealed, it’s virtually assured that some numbskull will feel compelled to “check it out,” thereby becoming a Darwin Award contender.
Then Butch would have to launch another avoidable search-and-rescue operation.
“It’s just Mother Earth passing gas,” Butch said with a laugh.
So please get wind of this: Hydrogen sulfide is silent but deadly. Please air on the side of caution with this flagitious flatulence at the unseemly seam.
Email questions to email@example.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you think the rotten egg smell reminds you more of Yellowstone National Park than it does ‘the sewer plant during tourist season.’