Anaheim Lake provides fun for anglers, but for nearby residents, life has gotten too fishy and smelly lately.
"They drain the lake every year," said Erica Kimbrough, who lives in the Vistara housing tract. "They leave the fish rotting and decomposing, and there's a horrible odor that permeates the entire neighborhood."
Kimbrough said one child has taken ill, and other residents, including two pregnant woman, have complained of headaches. The north Anaheim neighborhood is near Orangethorpe Avenue at Miller Street.
Orange County Water District officials apologized for any inconvenience to the residents but said the odor does not pose any health risks.
Dr. Hugh F. Stallworth, county director of public health, said residents are "absolutely not" in any greater health risk because of the dead fish.
Water district officials said they have been frustrated in their attempts to rid the area of the foul odor. First, bulldozers were used to turn over the earth, but the odor lingered. Thursday, they put down lime and then sprayed with an odor retardant, said district spokesman Ron Wildermuth.
He said the lake had an unusual accumulation of small fish in a flood channel and a pump box at the bottom of the lake. The water district intends to solve the problem, he added.
"We are going to engineer a solution . . . so that it doesn't happen again," he said. "Our initial thoughts before we fill the lake with water is to construct some pits to control where these fish collect. Then, when we lower the lake next time, we can gather them and put them in a land fill."
Residents said they complain every year about the smelly situation. Two weeks ago, when draining began, the district caught fish by the thousands using nets. But shad, a 2-inch silver bait fish that comes from the Colorado River, were too small and apparently swam into the lake's pump box and died.
The lake, which holds 770 million gallons of water, is one of nine lakes fed by the Santa Ana River and owned by the water district. Although fishing is very popular at the lakes, no fishing is allowed at Anaheim Lake.
The incident was the second time fish have died at the lakes this year. In March, the water district blamed nitrate-laden dairy runoff for killing thousands of trout and bass at one of the Anaheim fishing lakes after a heavy rainstorm.