Stench entrenched: deodorizing Cove will require time, money and bureaucratic buy-in


By Pat Sherman

Community members determined to rid La Jolla of the foul odor caused by pelican, cormorant and sea lion waste at La Jolla Cove will have to hold their noses a while longer.

According to Bob Morris with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), it will take a year to obtain a permit from his state agency. The permit is required to spray a deodorizing solvent on the offal-encrusted cliffs and rocks, and comes with a permit fee of $4,000 to $5,000.

Morris said an initial product proposal to be submitted to the RWQCB should state the product’s impact on the marine habitat, its components, how it will be used and who will be applying it — plus any record of product testing. The RWQCB does not conduct its own testing, Morris said.

Earlier this year community members approached San Diego’s Park and Recreation Department seeking approval to spray Prefered Water Alternative, a non-toxic agent derived from pomegranate and chia seed.

Prefered’s L.A.-based manufacturer/distributor,Carlos Sebastian, said his product, at full strength, passed the three-species test that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to test for toxicity on three of the most environmentally sensitive species of fish.

“We’ve got aquariums running on the product,” Sebastian said, adding it has been used for three decades in Japan as an anti-wrinkle agent.

However, Sebastian said he doesn’t want to “spend thousands of dollars” for a permit application or further testing without knowing what the RWQCB requires.

“We’d like to know from them what they need from us to say it’s OK to use your product,” he said. “I will perform whatever (test) they need.”

La Jollan Mark Evans, who is working with the city’s Park and Recreation staff to rid the Cove of its reek, has suggested another product, which he said Park and Recreation District Manger Dan Daneri seems more amiable to — Costa Mesa-based Bio-Organic Catalyst’s EcoSystem Plus.

A product description for EcoSystem says it is safe for use in “all wastewater applications, including municipal and industrial wastewater facilities, agricultural and animal waste lagoons, and other contaminated water systems.”

Though Evans is awaiting further documentation from the company, he said he believes the product received EPA approval.

“I think the advantage it has is that it has been thoroughly tested scientifically and has been, apparently, cleared by the EPA and other regulatory agencies for discharge into any body of water — whether it’s an ocean, lake, river or anything else, because it’s not deemed to be a pollutant of any sort.

“According to (the company) it would work almost instantaneously,” Evans said. “It basically just decomposes the stuff and turns it back into elements that are harmless.”

Whichever method of cliff cleansing is put forth, the city’s Deputy Director of Developed Regional Parks, Kathleen Hasenauer, said both the manufacturer and community must obtain a letter from the RWQCB stating that the runoff created “doesn’t contain soluble concentrations of any chemical in excess of water quality (standards),” nor other pollutants that would contaminate the wetlands.

Thus far “that hasn’t been able to happen,” she said. “If there’s any discharge into the wetlands, we as the property owner, would be responsible. That was the information we got from our Storm Water (Department).”

Some community members have suggested cleansing the rocks and cliffs with plain ocean water (sans any cleansing agents), perhaps pumped via boat or sea vessel.

Hasenauer said she is not sure if that plan would gain city approval. “That would have to come from

someone who would say this does not constitute a violation of a discharge into the wetlands and surface waters,” she said.

Once community members gain RWQCB buy-in, they also must obtain a right-of-entry permit from the city, which is required for any debris removal or cleanup effort on city park property.

The community also must provide insurance, as well as a detailed map of where the spraying would occur. At a recent meeting of La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc., Dan Daneri said previous maps submitted to Park and Recreation for the spraying were insufficient.

“I think it’s ultimately going to be the burden of those of us who want to get something done — whether it’s a map or an aerial photo that reflects precisely the area that would be sprayed, so the city knows what’s going to be done,” Evans said.

According to Morris, the spraying also would be subject to the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit process, as well as possible approval by the California Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Any person who is discharging a pollutant in the waters of the United States is subject to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System,” Morris said, noting that the RWQCB can provide “the appropriate requirements for such a discharge.”