Dumbarton Bridge: What Is That Smell?

by on August 25, 2014

in consumer

Today I have a few things on my mind and thought I’d chat about them here. One of them concerns that gawd awful stink on the east side of the Dumbarton Bridge in the Bay Area.

Of late I’ve been finding myself crossing over the Dumbarton Bridge in the Peninsula/East Bay region and I must say that there is one seriously pungent odor on the east (Fremont) side of that bridge that makes me think of poop that’s been sitting around in the sun for months, piling up and going rancid. Yes, rancid poop! It’s so bad even my dog starts rubbing his face on the car seat and squirming around trying to get the smell off him.

I’ve seen some reviews saying it smells like fish but I think the best descriptor is raw sewage. That’s what this could be best described as.  But as I look around, I am seeing a fascinating thing with this southern most part of the bay. It doesn’t have the advantage of fresh flowing delta waters rinsing or moving in fresh water. Instead, things drift to this location and tend to stay there, sitting stagnate.

The region has had its issues from spill off from mercury mines of yesteryear and raw sewage having been dumped in the bay. (It’s awesome how humanity can forge ahead, but never quite look ahead to see what their actions can cause.) today the San Jose Sewage treatment plant dumps “clean” waste water into this area of the Bay at the rate of 120 million gallons a day.

I’m seeing folks know about the smell, and now, I read that there are even clouds of bugs over there. Oh, this gets better by the minute. (I’m a mosquito feasting magnet.) But what gets me is one answer that surprised me:

When the tide in the bay goes out, plants and baked mud are exposed (to the air and sun) and, well, they can stink, says Paul-the-Mercury-News-Environment-Man. Winds can also carry the odor from landfills and San Jose’s sewage plant toward your commute.

So as far as I can tell, this odor over the Dumbarton bridge is an accumulative smell from the baked mud that smells like rotten eggs, to garbage and sewer smells and “clean” water from a nearby sewage treatment facility.

I finally found at least one scientific reference that denotes that the rotten egg smell is the smell of biological progress! When plants and animals pass on in the marsh, they decompose into the marshes there.

So there’s the best answer I can find… I think. That poop smell is, well, poop!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

William T. Saul September 21, 2016 at 12:22 am

Serious sharp odor in Oakland this p.m. It’s pungent. Has anyone else experienced it?

Bruce Simmons August 9, 2016 at 11:56 am

Informative, sarcastic and funny! A rare commentator indeed.

Niko August 8, 2016 at 10:20 am

Ahh! My perfume! That is what it is! I did that, or I must have done that diarrhoea! Actually I went across only two days ago (Saturday, August 7, 2016) across Dumbarton Bridge and my friend actually asked me if I had shit my pants in his car! (Playing up to him) I said; ‘Yes! Sorry, I have the runny shits! I have to use a toilet!’ He told me that I stink! (He chided me for not telling him earlier).

Actually I have to be honest, that DOES stink like many cases of diarrhoea that I frequently have (I have IBS) I know, it’s awful, but it is inconvenient, bothersome, and it is the truth!

Now, the organism is actually a microalgae called Dunaliella Salina. It has positive benefits as well, such as what gives the myriad of colours especially whilst flying over the lower SF Bay on final approach to SFO. Actually there are some antioxidants such as beta carotine and glycerol found in this algae as well.

So next time you drive over State Route 84 (Dumbarton Bridge the bay’s shortest bridge about 2’620 m) between Newark (Fremont) and the western end in Menlo Park, just think of well… uh… me and my unfortunate runs — and the beta carotine as well!

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