A stench emanating from a nearby lagoon has overwhelmed several homes in the Spinnaker Point neighborhood in San Rafael to a point where residents do not want to go outside.
The smell is so bad, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a notice of violation earlier this month to the developer who owns the land. But the pungent, rotten egg odor remains as white, decaying material rings the lagoon.
There is no tidal flow to the water, which gathered after winter rains. As the summer wore on algae grew, then died, creating malodorous conditions in the stagnant water as bacteria rotted. Two smaller lagoons nearby also appear to be drying as well.
"I can't go outside," said Toni Albert, whose home on Bedford Cove backs up to the lagoon near the Jean and John Starkweather Shoreline Park. "It smells like a sewer with dead algae on top of it. It's so bad I can't have my godchildren over."
The fumes have become noxious for Albert, compounding an existing illness that makes her nauseous.
"I am seriously thinking of moving it's so bad," said Albert, who has lived in her home for seven years. "But then, who would want to buy a house that has this horrible smell around it?"
The odor from the lagoon arises every year, but usually for a short period.
"This year it has continued for months," Albert said, adding it's not clear why it is worse this year.
The lagoon is owned by the Rockport Land Corp. of Petaluma,
The district issued a notice to the company on Sept. 10; it's a formal record of the air quality management district staff's conclusion that a violation of state law regarding air quality or a district regulation has occurred. The violation may subject Rockport to monetary penalties. In most cases a violation can be settled by taking corrective action and paying a penalty, according to the district.
Rockport officials could not be reached for comment. An employee at the company said the person who could speak to the issue was out of the country.
There is a pipe that runs from the lagoon into the bay, but it is designed to take water out during heavy rains to prevent flooding, said Nader Mansourian, public works director for San Rafael.
The city has cleared the pipe in the past for that purpose and continues to do so to prevent flooding of nearby homes, but the city isn't responsible for the condition in the lagoon that is causing the odor, he said.
"It is the landowner's issue," Mansourian said.
Residents have suggested the pipe be reconfigured to allow bay saltwater to come in and mix with the existing water, which would create flow and possibly disperse the algae and eliminate the odor.
But Mansourian said that would disturb the balance of the lagoon, which acts as a seasonal wetland for birds and other species. Additionally it would require more attention from public works staff that is already stretched thin, he said.
Karen Donner, who also lives on Bedford Cove, just wants somebody to do something.
"I had people over earlier this week and I couldn't bring them out back to barbecue, the smell was so bad," said Donner, who has been getting headaches that may be connected to the odor. "It would have been revolting to try to eat outside."
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