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Along the Mississippi coast, the smell from the witch's brew in the Gulf is wafting ashore.

Areas of Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Gulfport reported pervasive petroleum smells Tuesday.  It was described variously as a burned-plastic odor, odd waxy smell and the smell of diesel exhaust.  It's to be expected, officials said, with all that crude oil in the Gulf.

Yeah, that's what I expect when I go down to the seashore, a heady mix of benzene, toluene and ethylbenzene.  Ahhhhh.... I love the smell of organic compounds in the morning.  It smells like....

gasoline fumes at the gas pump.

Fortunately, the EPA isn't worried about this -- yet.

"The smell and the health concern are two different things," said Francisco Cruz, EPA spokesman out of Mobile.

So when will it become a problem?  Good question...

According to the EPA

On Tuesday the Coast registered 3 parts per million in the air, Cruz said.

The EPA is concerned with levels that exceed 5 ppm.

Of course that doesn't mean people won't notice it, and the EPA is ready for that possibility.

Still, if the smell creates headaches or nausea, Cruz recommends people call their doctor. The EPA Web site, which displays daily readings, also recommends people who are sensitive to the odor reduce prolonged, heavy exertion outside.

Unfortunately, this raises a larger problem.  What happens if they can't stop it?

Short answer: nothing good.  I won't bore you with the details, but get used to hearing superlatives like "unprecedented" a whole lot more often.

I am sorry to say it, but when the best idea they are considering is called "top hat" and "junk shot" ... it's clear why Gulf Coast resident's aren't too keen on the way this is playing out:

"The best protection right now, aside from booms and underwater fencing or everybody linking hands along the beach and trying to blow the oil back out, is to get this thing shut off," LaFontaine said. "Just stop it. That’s the protection we need."

He's right.  Unfortunately, that ain't gonna happen any time soon.  At best, we have three more months of this.  At worst... "unprecedented" won't cover it.

Originally posted to 8ackgr0und N015e on Thu May 13, 2010 at 03:36 AM PDT.

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