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As a handful of groups work quickly toward the best solution to eradicating the odor without irritating the wildlife, I Love A Clean San Diego provides other important facts on the pollution front.

Yes, the bird stench at La Jolla Cove is a big problem for businesses, tourists and residents there. While a number of experts and stakeholders are working hard to find the right solution, I Love A Clean San Diego has some additional information on animal pollution that we should all pay attention to.

Just to recap, it seems that the stench stems from more than a few big birds (pelicans and cormorants to be exact) that have found a permanent hangout at the cove safe from human interruption. The odor from their droppings is attracting most of the attention, and some have begun to raise questions about their poop triggering both a “public health disaster” and an environmental contamination issue.

The bad news is it may take some time for the best solution to be developed and agreed upon. In the meantime, with our rainy season rapidly approaching, the bird waste will wash into the water and may create a short-term water quality issue for swimmers and scuba divers, even before any human intervention takes place.

The good news is a little bird poop should be the least of our worries in terms of threats to public health. Yes, the smell impacts businesses and residents, but in the big picture, the bacteria flowing into the ocean from a couple hundred cormorants isn’t nearly as big a threat as the bacteria that comes from the feces of pets throughout San Diego. That’s right, man’s best friend is responsible for roughly 25 percent of the bacteria noted in local water testing, primarily as a result of pet owners refusing to scoop the poop, something totally preventable! Of the remaining bacteria found in local waterways, if not a result of people’s pets, most of it comes from soil, plants and wildlife. Human impacts can increase the rate of bacteria from natural sources, but this isn’t nearly as preventable. The easiest solution to preventing bacteria from polluting our waterways is to simply pick up after your pets.

The most environmentally friendly solution to this problem may stink for some, but letting the rainy season take care of the issue over the winter might be a good short-term solution. As hard as it may be, we encourage folks concerned about this issue to simply allow nature to run its course. The experts and stakeholders, including the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, can take the lead in coming up with ideas that might balance the pollution and environmental preservation issues that everyone is concerned about.

Morgan Justice-Black is a San Diego native and I Love A Clean San Diego’s Director of Development & Marketing.


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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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