TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Tulsa health officials are cautioning residents to be aware of the natural stench that comes as the water continues to recede after last week’s historic flooding.
State experts said the smells can be mold decay, odors with unrecognizable scents, or the scents from sewage or chemicals, the Tulsa World reported .
“If they’re just unsure, if something doesn’t smell right or look right, we tell people to call our hotline,” said Erin Hatfield, director of communications for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Anonymous grievances are accepted.
“People don’t always know, and they are overwhelmed,” said Gina Gould Peek, housing and consumer specialist with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension. “Floodwater can have all kinds of nasty chemicals and other things in it, but eventually as things normalize, your yard is not going to be a hazmat site. Generally, the Earth repairs itself. But if you are unsure or hesitant, you should certainly call for help.”
Though Tulsa remained largely intact, one of its suburbs, Sand Springs, was among the first communities flooded when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing more water from a dam upriver to control more severe flooding elsewhere.
Bernard Dinby, environmental service program manager for the Tulsa Health Department, noted that standing water can also be a hazard.
“If there still is some flood water out there, people want to be cautious how they proceed,” he said. “You should be wearing personal protective equipment because you need to worry about sewage runoff, fecal matter and, of course, chemicals from vehicles or other chemicals still in the water, and you need to be aware of bacteria in the water.”
Peek added decaying vegetation can also emit an unpleasant smell.
“If you look across the state, you’ll see flooded wheat fields and other areas with vegetation and all these areas where biological decay is happening,” she said. “With a few days of the sun shining and the wind blowing, things will dry out a little bit. It’s just going to take a little bit of time, and things will be on the up and up again.”