At this point, no one yet can tell.
Little real progress seems to be being made in finding a resolution to the ongoing problem of counteracting the nauseating stench of bird and marine mammal waste buildup emanating from La Jolla Cove.
But the effort continues.
“Councilmember [Sherri] Lightner’s office continues to work with the community and elected officials at the local and state level to find a solution to the odor problem at La Jolla Cove,” Jennifer Davies, the communications director Lightner’s District 1 office. “The issue is the result of the bird waste accumulating on the bluff overlooking the Cove, which can cause an overpowering smell.”
Davies’ email said Lightner’s office is working with all involved parties to find both short- and long-term solutions.
“All the stakeholders — including the mayor’s office, city staff, the Regional Water Quality Board (RWQCB), the Coastal Commission and state representatives — are cooperating to find a solution that is both environmentally friendly and that requires the fewest number of permits and can be achieved as quickly as possible,” Davies wrote. “Councilmember Lightner remains convinced there is a common sense, cost-effective way to tackle the issue that is mindful of the environmental significance of the area, as well as its importance to the local tourism economy.”
But local health and environmental officials, like Dave Roberts, executive director of the RWQCB, an agency charged with developing and enforcing water-quality objectives, continues to talk about the problems involved in finding an effective — and safe — way of removing the Cove stench.
Roberts insists much more needs to be done by way of testing and documentation to prove any product used to cleanse the Cove will have absolutely no adverse environmental impacts.
“In terms of discussing what the options are, we’re always open,” he said. “But we really have to know what the product [used] is, and what it does. Is it biodegradable? Will it break down in the environment or persist?”
Noting the Cove coastal area is heavily used by the public and also contains an area of special biological significance (encompassing the underwater park’s 6,000 protected acres of ocean bottom and tidelands) means the “litmus test” applied for any product sprayed there to eliminate odor will be that much more difficult to pass, Roberts said.
“The state Water Quality Control Board says there should be no [harmful] discharge whatsoever into the ocean,” he said. “Also, if you’re spraying the soft crumbly sandstone rocks, you may be causing an erosion problem on those cliffs. We need to be honest. If we’re going to authorize a discharge, that has to be based on sound findings of fact and science.”
A year or more ago, Carlos Sebastian of The SolRac Wellness Company in North Hollywood stepped forward in offering his odor-elimination product, called Preferred Water Alternative, as an answer to the Cove odor problem. A non-toxic, biomass agent, Sebastian insists the odor extinguisher has been used successfully for years in diverse venues from dairy farms to zoos.
“It’s not a chemical,” he said of his product. “It’s derived from pomegranate and chia seeds, creating the perfect environment for eliminating odiferous smell.”
“I’ve been using this product for 40 years now and we’ve had no fails — and no health issues, no complaints,” Sebastian said, adding the agent actually works better in salt water and can be easily applied with a backpack sprayer. “And the product itself is as benign as drinking water.”
Melinda Merryweather, a La Jollan who has long served on the community’s Parks and Beaches Committee, initially brought forward the problem of the intensifying stench at the Cove. She said she believes the ultimate solution may be a lot simpler than most people think.
Pointing out that a fence — which was erected at the Cove to prevent people from diving off the cliffs — has allowed birds to become entrenched there, she offered one solution.
“Take down the fence and let people get back on the rocks and the birds will be gone,” she said. “It’s that simple.”
La Jollan Mark Evans has been involved in the grass-roots effort to find a way to eradicate the Cove stench. He noted the stakes on the outcome of the effort are high.
“There could be grave impacts to the economic vitality of the Village if the problem isn’t solved,” he said.
Growing media coverage of the problem is promoting greater public awareness, and, Evans hopes, perhaps driving the motivation to do actually do something about it.
“There’s a lot of pubic attention on it now,” he said, adding that attention has prompted elected officials “to try to find ways to be helpful.”
“It’s giving me some sense of optimism that, hopefully before next summer, we can get this [cleanup] rolling,” he said.