A rotten-egg smell that’s enveloped the neighborhood appears to be from decaying wetlands vegetation felled for mosquito abatement

By Gary Walker

Decomposing reeds and foliage in the Playa Vista Freshwater Marsh are causing the putrid odor that has invaded Playa Vista over the last month, according to the Ballona Conservancy. Photo courtesy of Patti Londre

Decomposing reeds and foliage in the Playa Vista Freshwater Marsh are causing the putrid odor that has invaded Playa Vista over the last month, according to the Ballona Conservancy.
Photo courtesy of Patti Londre

A putrid, sulfurous odor akin to rotten eggs has been blowing through the western end of Playa Vista for nearly a month, and it’s likely the result of efforts to keep mosquitos from breeding at the nearby Playa Vista Freshwater Marsh.

The Ballona Conservancy, a nonprofit created to maintain the 51.7-acre marsh in the Ballona Wetlands, thinks the recurring smell is caused by decaying vegetation that was cut down in an effort to reduce mosquito breeding in the marsh.

Last month The Argonaut reported that county health officials had identified “massive and unprecedented” mosquito breeding at the marsh due in large part to a lack of routine maintenance, according to a report by Los Angeles County West Vector and Vector-Borne Disease Control District Executive Director Dr. Robert Saviskas.

The agency ordered the Ballona Conservancy to remove vegetation that was so thick it prevented mosquito abatement efforts.

In order to comply, the conservancy cut down large amounts of reeds and foliage in the marsh and the surrounding riparian corridor in order to control the mosquito population, a Playa Vista spokesman said.

“This was done at the direction of the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District, which also requested that the water levels in the corridor be reduced to decrease the breeding areas for mosquitoes,” he said. “However, since the work was done, a strong smell began emanating from the corridor area located south of Bluff Creek Drive. It is likely that the smell is caused, in part, due to the decomposition of the cut vegetation.”

Conservancy representatives anticipate having the problem under control soon.

“The conservancy has hired more people to move more quickly to remove the vegetation, and anticipates completing that work this week. We are also confident that the smell will dissipate once the cut vegetation is cleared and water levels in the corridor resume to normal levels.”

Since the vegetation was cut back and the water levels lowered, the mosquito counts are down “dramatically,” according to the conservancy.

Residents of the upscale neighborhood have complained of acrid smells all around Bluff Creek Drive, including at Playa Vista Elementary School, Oberrieder Dog Park and the basket-ball courts.

Resident Lori Gage said the odor has been strongest in the morning when she drives down Bluff Creek Drive to get to Lincoln Boulevard.

“It smells like rotten eggs, not like rotting vegetation,” she said. “I’m really concerned because the school is right there.”

Gage said she has smelled the odor on and off for nearly a month and initially thought it might be methane.

“I’ve even smelled it late at night, as late as 11 p.m. It’s horrible,” she said.

Resident Patti Londre described the smell as “sulfurous air pollution” emanating from the marsh.

“When the wind dies down over-night, the odor wafts into our homes and chokes us awake. Nobody should have to close their windows and turn on air conditioning when we live in the breeze of the ocean,” Londre said.

Gage, who lives near the Campus at Playa Vista, isn’t absolutely convinced smell is emanating from the marsh. The pungent odor was present again over the weekend, she said, stronger than ever.

“To have smelled it all weekend and not on other days is very interesting to me. It’s very odd,” she said.

gary@argonautnews.com

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