Pixel Tracker

Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 6:03 pm | A Few Clouds 63º


‘Odor Event’ Fouls Andree Clark Bird Refuge in Santa Barbara

Explosion of algae leads to rotten eggs smell that permeates the area around the scenic lake

Santa Barbara’s Andree Clark Bird Refuge is experiencing an unwelcome and unpleasant ‘odor event’ caused by a major algal bloom. Officials say the rotten-egg smell should dissipate within a few days.
Santa Barbara’s Andree Clark Bird Refuge is experiencing an unwelcome and unpleasant ‘odor event’ caused by a major algal bloom. Officials say the rotten-egg smell should dissipate within a few days. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara is experiencing an "odor event" at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge, an unwelcome and widespread smell similar to rotten eggs that is permeating the area around the scenic body of water.

A sudden algal bloom on Friday led to a noxious smell — the intense growth of algae creates hydrogen sulfide, which causes the unpleasant smell.

Jill Zachary, the city's acting Parks and Recreation director, said the events are unpredictable, but the algae blooms can occur during warm, sunny conditions, and often turn the water into a bright, opaque green that she calls "pea soup."

"Clearly, depending on which way the wind is blowing, different people are affected," Zachary said.

It's unknown how long the smell will last, but Zachary said previous algal blooms typically last five to seven days. 

The Andree Clark Bird Refuge is a 42.4-acre open space and 29-acre lake in Santa Barbara near Cabrillo Boulevard and Highway 101.

The city has few options to intervene. In the past, it could run a boat in the water and raise the oxygen levels, but the lake is far too low to get a boat in, Zachary said.

The lake is usually about four feet deep, but now it's about one foot deep.

"We have also put potable water in the bird refuge," Zachary said, "but that is not possible today considering the drought conditions."

One option the city is considering is to insert microbes in the water to consume the sediment and organic material. The city could also dredge the lake bottom to make it deeper and install aeration devices, which could cost up to $3 million. 

The city is also planning a restoration of the refuge, including finding ways to get water into the wetland.

"We have no natural source of water for the bird refuge anymore," Zachary said.

She also said there are wells that could potentially be drilled near the Zoo and the Clark Estate.

"Any long-term solution is a massive restoration projection," Zachary said. 

For now, people will have to just wait until the smell goes away.

"We anticipate, as with other odor events, they have a cycle," Zachary said. "Eventually it stops breaking, the sulfide goes away and we go into another state."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.