Cove stench ‘cleanser’ needs approval from board

By Dave Schwab

How to quell the smell from hell at this point is hard to tell.

“It can be something complicated,” said David Barker of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), San Diego region, about resolving the odor problem caused by bird- and marine-mammal waste buildup at the Cove, one of La Jolla’s signature landmarks.

A solution has been proposed to snuff the smell: Use of Prefered Water Alternative.

A non-toxic, biomass agent derived from pomegranate and chia seeds, Prefered’s L.A.-based manufacturer-distributor, Carlos Sebastian, claims his product is totally effective in counteracting odors and entirely harmless to the environment.

“I’ve been using it for 35 years and I don’t have any complaints,” said Sebastian, who’s used Prefered to combat odors at everything from zoos to dairies and claims, “You can take it and squirt it in your eye and it won’t hurt you.”

Approached in January with using Preferred Water Alternative at the Cove to stem the stench, Stacey LoMedico with the City’s Park and Recreation Department said the city would investigate the product’s chemical properties and render an opinion as to its viability.

In an e-mail last week, LoMedico said city staff has sent a letter stating the next step in getting Prefered considered is to “get a letter from the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) approving the use of the product.”

“It’s not a simple process, like you apply for a driver’s license and you get it the next day,” said Barker about the hurdles that need to be cleared before Prefered could be used as an odor eater at the Cove. “It can be a drawn-out process depending on what the product is.”

Noting federal law requires anything discharged into surface waters to be permitted, Barker said the starting point in applying for Prefered would be to “write a letter to the RWQCB describing exactly what it is and what you want to do with it, and then take it from there.”

Barker said an application would have to be filed for a permit, and that other agencies with jurisdiction might also conceivably want to weigh in. The permit process, he said, could take months and would have to be renewed every five years with notice of renewal 180 days in advance.

“Technical staff would have to review it to see if the discharge is allowable and would meet water-quality standards,” Barker said. Next, there would be a public hearing 
process.

Ultimately, Barker said, “a board appointed by the governor votes on whether or not to adopt the permit.”

The process seems like a lot, but Barker said, “it’s done purposely to make sure that discharges that are allowed are appropriate and don’t result in pollution of the receiving waters.”

Sebastian said he hasn’t applied for an RWQCB permit yet, but “I can jump through hoops,” adding the Cove’s odor problem is “just going to be compounding as it (animal waste) adds up.”

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