Now that the initial cleanup of thousands of dead sardines in Redondo Beach's King Harbor Marina has come to an end, the waste collection provider Athens Services will be composting the fish at its Victorville company American Organics.
Gary Clifford of Athens hopes to bring some of the finished fish fertilizer home to the Beach Cities, he told the Redondo Beach City Council in a meeting Tuesday night.
“It’s our hope that within a few months we can come back and have a great event in the community when we bring the compost back as some kind of blend that your city can use to grow things in,” Clifford said. “It would be a very nice event.”
Dave Caron, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California, plans to monitor the composting process with his team of researchers.
Caron, who has been regularly monitoring water quality since 2005 in the Marina that neighbors Hermosa Beach, told city officials that he and his team have found the neurotoxin domoic acid in the bellies of the sardines. He does not suspect the toxin will survive the composting process.
“It’s an organic compound,” Caron said. “It is naturally degraded. We just have no experience in how fast it would disappear when it’s in a composting process. But given the fact that heat is involved and bacterial decomposition, it’s likely to be pretty effective.”
Caron's group of scientists will make sure that the toxin is removed, he said.
“I know a lot about water. I know less about composting. But I’m learning,” Caron said. “I have talked to Mr. Clifford. In fact, we will work with them to make sure whatever may have gone into the composting process is monitored to see how and if that disappears."
American Organics is a certified organic composting facility, one of only two in the state, Clifford said. It uses a pathogen reduction process that will eliminate the toxin.
“It’s not the first time we’ve had fish in our facility,” he said. “We isolate those fish when they come in and we truly believe that over time, probably by now even, that toxin is gone… It’s a transparent process and I think you’ll be pretty darn proud of us at the end of the day.”
The 175 tons of , according to Caron’s water testing. The neurotoxin may have caused disorientation in the fish, he said. The large school of sardines were either pushed into the harbor by strong winds or entered the harbor to get away from a windstorm.
“Whatever brought the fish into that area, there were simply too many of them in that location to handle the amount of dissolved oxygen that was in there,” Caron said.
After discovering the toxin in small amounts in the stomachs of the fish last week, Caron and his team sampled waters off of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and found a “significant toxic bloom,” he said.
The toxin is not present in the harbor itself, according to water samples. Caron thinks that the fish had been feeding in the nearby coastal waters with the algal bloom present.