Blue Eagle Cleaning, an all-natural cleaning solutions company, tested a microbial cleaner on pilot plots north of the primary cormorant mess at La Jolla Cove on May 28. If the test treatment proves to be effective at eliminating the bird droppings and odor that emanates from them without affecting the water or sealife, a full-scale treatment of the entire affected bluff will begin June 10.
The cleaning solution is an all-natural bacteria blend that effectively eats away at the waste material. According to biological consultant Keith Merkel of Merkel & Associates, the treatment is safe for the environment and effective at quelling the odor almost immediately after its first treatment.
“It’s a blend of bacilli bacteria, and they go after the nutrients and the waste material itself. Once the bacteria run out of food, they will ultimately die off or dry out,” said Merkel. “This is something that has been used multiple times for cleaning and has also been used in the food industry for dissolving waste materials.”
The arduous permitting process to clean the coastal bluffs was initially quoted to take two years to complete before a cleanup method could be employed. Furthermore, strict environmental and marine mammal protection guidelines mandated that the method of cleanup not disturb the air, water, bluffs, birds or mammals in the area, limiting options in the sensitive habitat.
Local residents and business owners, however, could not stand the stench that affected their local economy that long, and groups like La Jolla Parks & Beaches and the La Jolla Village Merchants Association worked with City Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner and Mayor Filner in expediting the cleanup process.
“While the powerful stench may seem like a punchline to many, I can tell you it was nothing to laugh about for the residents and business owners in La Jolla,” said Lightner. “The ongoing odor issues were impacting our quality of life and hurting our local economy, while the tangle of state and federal regulations created a seemingly unsolvable knot of bureaucratic red tape.”
Filner declared the area a public health and safety hazard, which helped clear the path to obtaining permits for the cleanup quickly. After exploring various avenues to determine the best environmentally sensitive solution — from falconers, tarps, spikes and a vacuum technique — city agencies and constructive locals found the most appropriate solution in Blue Eagle’s microbial treatment.
The price tag for the cleanup, in the order of $50,000 for the initial cleanup and up to $100,000 expected per year for additional treatments, is funded through the city’s Park and Recreation Department.
“We think we have a process that works. We’ve done it right. We’ve kept in line with the environmental protections that are guaranteed, but we have to also protect the health and welfare of citizens here in La Jolla,” said Filner. “It just has to be done. It’s just unacceptable for the community to have to deal with this.”