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In March 2011, when masses of dead sardines began washing up at the King Harbor Marina in Redondo Beach, hundreds of city workers, firefighters and volunteers undertook a major effort to remove the fish, which threatened to rot and poison the local sea life in what could have been an ecological disaster.
After the dead sardines were cleaned up, the critical question remained of what to do with the 175 tons of dead fish. Workers said it would have been impossible to dump them all further out to sea as there were too many to ship out by boat. That’s when Athens Services stepped in, offering a creative and environmentally sound solution to this urgent and unique disposal problem. The dead fish were transported to the Athens Services composting facility American Organics in Victorville, CA.
By taking a proactive stance Athens Services was instrumental in diverting a potentially damaging environmental situation. After recovering the dead fish from the harbor, it was discovered that “Domoic Acid” was the leading cause of the fish kill. American Organics took immediate steps to isolate and process the fish under the watchful eye of various agencies including CDFA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, LEA Department of Environmental Health, California Department of Fish and Game, USC Department of Biological Sciences, and NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center.
The compost process proved the best environmental solution to the problem. Within the first week, composting rendered the Domoic Acids no longer detectable, resulting in a finished product rich in nutrients especially given the fish oils.
To take the story full circle, Athens/American Organics returned the compost back to the City of Redondo Beach green belt and through community compost giveaways. Once a potential environmental contaminate was now transformed into a safe, rich soil amendment for landscape beautification city wide.
“The fish dying-off is the sad thing, but it is being turned into something positive,” said Gary Clifford, Chief Operating Officer of Athens Services. “Reusing the dead fish as compost material just makes sense and it will help the environment in the long run.”