San Diego Hires Firm to Remove Odor in La Jolla

Accumulated bird droppings have brought a strong, lingering stench to the popular tourist destination

Pupping Season Underway in La Jolla
NBC 7 San Diego

After a year and a half of raising a stink over the smell of La Jolla Cove, San Diego is going to do something about it.

On Tuesday, workers will begin neutralizing the chemicals and organisms – including the overwhelming bird guano – causing the stench permeating the air around the cliffs east of La Jolla Cove.

There were usual crowds over the Memorial Day weekend and it was obvious the sightseers and beach combers were staying up-wind of the stench.

The cliffs east of the popular tourist attraction are practically painted bird droppings.

It's as difficult to put up with the smell as it is for visitors to agree on its pungency.

“Pretty musky I think is the best way to describe it, “Taylor Melville said.

“It's unusual, very unusual. It’s like decaying fish,” visitor Nancy Cromwell said.

The impact on La Jolla businesses and tourism is equally bad.

“We probably wouldn't stay as long as we would have normally,” Cromwell said.

“It's cut down the business actually for some people,” T-shirt vendor David Norton said.

In April, biologists said the odor in La Jolla was, essentially, the smell of success. Environmental protections put in place in La Jolla over the past few decades have brought endangered species back into the coastal town.

La Jolla is a state-designated area of "special biological significance." That means California strictly regulates its waters to protect its abundant marine life, which also attracts birds.

"We're kind of a victim of our own success," said Robert Pitman, a marine biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla during an interview last month.

After nearly two years of debate over the most ecological and non-invasive cleanup, San Diego's Mayor Bob Filner said the smell was a public health hazard and as a result supersedes state laws that have stalled cleanup before now.

To move the matter along and gain some resolution, Filner issued an “Emergency Finding” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

The City of San Diego then hired a company called Blue Eagle to use nonpathogenic bacteria to eat away the animal waste and its odor.

Blue Eagle is expected to begin Tuesday applying the product in small amounts and under specialist supervision to measure the impact and effectiveness.

The specialized “microbial odor counteractant and cleaner” will be applied to the guano on top of the cliffs. The product will “digest” the guano and organisms atop the cliffs and, if all goes as planned, eliminate odors.

The product has been used in the past to address similar odor problems in cities like Sacramento and at the Colorado Springs Zoo, according to Filner.

The City says full scale clean-up will begin in early June.

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