Playa Vista’s Big Stink

Posted October 12, 2016 by The Argonaut in News

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.



    John Barsky

    The department that cut down the vegetation should be responsible for cleaning up the mess it has left behind.Once that has been accomplished and if the smell is still in the air, then further measures should be taken to identify and rid the area of whateve rthe source is found to be.

    Hans R Etter

    What do people expect it to smell when they move in next to a wetland?? It is by it’s nature a place where bugs of all kind lives and wetlands are constantly decaying and that is part of nature. If you don’t like it you can always move. No one forced you to live there ,Playa Vista was build because of greed of the banks and developer that paid off our politician,now you have to deal with west Nile virus and other life treating diseases and people that moved there was either gullible or ignorant about the wetland. I wonder what they say when natural gas that is seeping up from the ground start blowing them up or the haunting starts from the Indian burial grounds that was bulldozed so they could live by the ocean. Never mind the next tsunami when it comes rolling in,what are they going to say then?


    This Area never used to smell until Playa Vista arrived. Playa Vista is the cause for this smell, thank you Playa Vista for totally destroying the Wetlands now go away. The whole area of Playa Vista has done nothing but brought a major negative impact of all surrounding areas, such as traffic congestion pollution and total destruction of our Wetlands. Playa Vista you are the smell. The crash will come again meaning home will be lost jobs etc. I patiently wait.


    Why are the Ballona Wetlands Conservancy and Playa Vista spokespersons in this article anonymous? What does Councilmember Mike Bonin have to say, given that Council District 11 has a seat on the Conservancy’s Board of Directors? What does the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have to say on the issue, given that one of their employees also sits on the Conservancy Board to protect the interests of the State of California? Why did the Ballona Wetlands Conservancy allow Playa Vista to dump a huge amount of construction fill on a service road above the Riparian Corridor?

    Walter Lamb
    Ballona Wetlands Land Trust

    David Kay

    The smell seemed to be absent by October 12 and was still gone on the morning of the 13th. Definitely had a sulfur scent.

    John Davis

    This rotten egg smell is commonly associated with Hydrogen Sulfide Gas, which is deadly and can especially harm younger and older persons.

    The claim is it is biogenic in nature, from rotting plant material. However, the Playa del Rey Gas Field, very similar to the one a Porter Ranch. In this field it is known to leak the deadly gas to the surface where it can migrate in accordance with the atmospheric conditions.

    The universal reply we here is don’t worry, it is only “swamp gas”.

    Gas migrating from deep below the surface is called thermogenic gas and is not from plant material.

    The question that needs to be asked, and answered very soon, to protect the pubic is:

    Is this Hydrogen Sulfide gas from a thermogenic or biogenic source. Evidence must be presented, not just wishful thinking.

    It is also notable that just across Lincoln there is a gas leak bubbling up 24/7 within viewing distance of a public school and massive development.

    It may not only be methane, which is odorless and explosive, but may include Hydrogen Sulfide Gas as well.

    This is very serious business and should be treated accordingly to protect the public health and safety.

    John Davis

    Leslie Purcell

    Has anyone who smelled these odors contacted the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and made a complaint? You can do this 24/7, by going to:

    from the site:
    Describe the air quality problem… For example, try to describe if it smells like rotten eggs…
    Report the problem to 1-800-CUT-SMOG (1-800-288-7664) or the On-line Complaint System. During business hours (7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday) your call is answered by an attendant and on-line complaints are received by staff.

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