Do you agree that recent stench is from the San Diego River?

by on September 4, 2009 · 12 comments

in Environment, Health, Ocean Beach, Reader Rant, San Diego

OCEAN BEACH, CA.  Something’s fishy in Ocean Beach. Or at least the recent stench that has seemingly permeated the community has a fishy source (not literally).  Where is it coming from?

SDG&E reports that they received 500 calls about a gaseous odor.  25 technicians were sent out to investigate.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department has responded that the source is the San Diego River.  They say that it’s all due to the low tide in the river.  Because of the low tide, decaying organic material was exposed, causing the odor that seemed to be everywhere from Ocean Beach to Point Loma.

Do you agree? Do you agree that the stench comes from decaying organic material in the River?

We have had at least one reader leave a rant on this:

I’m writing to rant about the horrible stench that consumed our community today. I WAS SCARED!. I physically felt nauseated. I was afraid my building would blow up. When I watched the news tonight they said it was natural grass fumes coming from the bay. BULLSHIT! What do they think…we are a bunch of morons. I hope we as a community raise our own Stink about this one.

Here’s a link to the SignOnSanDiego article.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy September 4, 2009 at 8:11 am

An SDG&E rep dropped by our house around 8:30 last night. (We’d called about the odor earlier that afternoon.)

She said they’re thinking it was from a tanker heading to an Ensenada port, as the odor complaints started in Mission Beach, moved to OB, then Point Loma, then Coronado.


Lane Tobias September 4, 2009 at 8:55 am

I smelled it briefly, and there’s no way that shit was natural. It was unsafe. I want the truth.


Dave Gilbert September 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

Are you talking about that smell that covered O.B. yesterday afternoon? I heard it was a gas leak over on Midway Drive.

The gas company adds an “odorant” so that people can smell an otherwise odorless natural gas leak.


jon September 4, 2009 at 9:33 am

I actually didn’t smell anything, but I was in bed all day with an unexplainable illness. Nausea, sweats and all around bad feeling. I thought it was food poisoning, but couldn’t figure out what I ate that was bad. Did anyone else feel physically ill?


Story September 4, 2009 at 10:01 am

No way was it the smell of the river. I know that smell very well. It smelled like when you return home and discover the pilot light went out. It’s a very certain smell and I know it when I smell it.


Susan September 4, 2009 at 5:42 pm

I do not believe that odor on 9/3/09 was from the San Diego River. It gave me a headache. I have lived here for 20 years, smelled the river many times at low tide, and it has never smelled like natural gas. It makes me very uncomfortable to be given that explanation. I wish I knew where to direct my complaint.


PSD September 4, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I was at work when this went down, but my girlfriend and all our neighbors swore it was a gas leak. SDG&E stopped by around 10 last night to check it out, but didn’t report anything back to us…


SM September 4, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I’m not a conspiracy theorist (at all), but I will say that the “San Diego River” explanation seems exceptionally dubious to me. I smelled the stuff — VERY strong — in both our main house and guest house at 7:00 p.m., all the way up in Pt. Loma (on Sunset Cliffs). It was totally a natural gas (odorant) smell, not a “decay” smell; having lived on the Cliffs for many years, I know what the low tide smells like. This was totally different. And the idea that we could smell the River from two full miles away is silly.

The SDGE person I talked to said he too thought it was an LNG ship heading to the North Ensenada facility. Would make sense for SDG&E to cover their arse (they own the thing) if the leak was indeed their fault.


Larry OB September 5, 2009 at 4:14 pm

The sludge line from the PL sewer plant to the landfill has vents. Some of the vents can be seen by the river at the North end of the first bridge. Perhaps I’ll bike over and give it a sniff.


Frank Gormlie September 5, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Could this have been a factor:

Shipment of liquefied natural gas headed to Sempra plant in Mexico


Adam September 11, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I bike, most days, from East of the 163 to Pacific Beach, right down Balboa Avenue. Heading West, over the Rose Creek bike bath under the fading warmth of daylight, there is quite the notable stench, with regularity. Here, it seems more like sewage than something synthetic, like the Sempra Gas mentioned above. Though my rapidly respirating nose don’t like it, the plant life just a bit north seems to LOVE it. Just look to your right, as you hop on the 5 North from Mission Bay: the aquatic environ seems lush as a 50’s pin-ups rouge lined lips. Natural gas, with an odorant, seems the most plausible explanation so far…


La Playa Heritage September 13, 2009 at 9:26 am

Point Loma Resident: Foul Smell Came From Naval Base

POSTED: 4:58 pm PDT September 10, 2009. UPDATED: 7:25 pm PDT September 10, 2009

SAN DIEGO — There is more mystery concerning a foul smell reported last week in the Ocean Beach and Point Loma areas, 10News reported. The smell was reported last Thursday afternoon, with many residents in Ocean Beach saying it smelled like natural gas. San Diego Gas and Electric received more than 500 phone calls and sent 25 technicians to check for
gas leaks. However, crews said they didn’t find any leaks, and the smell vanished after about 30 minutes. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department also investigated and concluded the smell came from the San Diego River. They said low tides exposed decaying organic material, and that’s what people smelled.

Dr. John Ahlering, a 26-year Point Loma resident, disagreed and said he has smelled the river at low tide many times. “That’s sort of a distinct rotting vegetation smell, and this smelled like
natural gas,” he told 10News. Dr. Ahlering thinks the smell came from fuel storage tanks at Naval Base Point Loma, which are clearly visible from his house. He and his neighbors received a letter from the Navy saying it was starting demolition of the tanks. Ahlering said a tank was opened the day of the bad smell. “When they opened it, whatever residual fuel may have been in there probably dried out and vaporized, and gave us the smell,” said Ahlering. The letter from the Navy said the demolition of the tanks would result in air quality within the levels of their environmental assessment.


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