A study has confirmed what some county officials believed was the source of pollution that has kept Marina del Rey’s only public beach closed for a year: bird droppings.
Larry Charness, a planner with the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said this week that a draft report of the study by Montgomery Engineers of Pasadena indicates that the high levels of fecal bacteria found in the water come primarily from shore birds that gather near the beach.
Charness said bird droppings accumulate in silt and sediment in the horseshoe-shaped beach area bounded by Palawan Way, Admiralty Way and Panay Way in Basin D and are stirred up with changes in the tide.
“The more it is stirred, the higher the pollution counts,” he said. “This (apparently) has been going on since the marina was developed.”
The report, which will be presented to the county Small Craft Harbor Commission next week and discussed at the board’s Nov. 9 meeting, said runoff from a parking lot near the Cheesecake Factory Restaurant and, to a lesser extent, from the Oxford Flood Control Basin, where a large number of birds, rabbits and fowl have been maintained, has also contributed to the pollution.
At one time, county officials thought the contamination was coming from rabbits and other warm-blooded animals in the flood control basin, and they were prepared to relocate the animals if they were found to be the main cause.
The consultant’s findings rule out the possibility of contamination from human sources or leaks in sewage lines. County officials can now concentrate on how to clean up and reopen the beach, known as Mother’s Beach because of the large number of mothers with children who frequent it.
Charness said the department will have to fill the beach with about 6 inches of clean sand, reroute the drainage from the restaurant parking lot and try to move the shore birds away from the beach, a task he conceded would not be easy.
“It is a natural thing for the birds to be there,” he said.
Charness also said the department will consider punching a culvert through to the next basin or creating a saltwater “swimming pool” at the site, although those two ideas are less likely to happen soon because they need more study and because of the cost involved.
He said the water runoff coming from the animal sanctuary in the flood control basin is also contributing to the pollution, but “it is not the main cause.”
He said county officials are re-evaluating the effectiveness of an aeration pump that was installed at the beach in April. Charness said the pump has kept contamination levels from rising but has not helped reduce them.
Richard Kebabjian, the county Health Department’s chief sanitary specialist, said the beach will not be reopened until the pollution counts are lowered to an acceptable level for three or four weeks straight.