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Avian Cholera In Peninsula Pond Kills Hundreds Of Birds; Smelly Fix Underway

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This photo taken on January 23, 2011 shows wild ducks flying around a bird sanctuary in the town of Candaba, Pampanga province, north of Manila. The number of birds flying south to important wintering grounds in the Philippines has fallen sharply this year, with experts saying the dramatic demise of wetlands and hunting are to blame. AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

(Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

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REDWOOD CITY (KPIX 5) – A Peninsula pond infected with avian cholera that is killing wildlife will soon be rehabilitated, but not before subjecting neighbors to a tremendously smelly process.

The pond is adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant in Redwood Shores operated by South Bayside System Authority at 1400 Radio Road.

More than 15 years ago, the area was flooded with fresh water to keep dust down at the plant. The birds loved it and moved in and so did Bay Area birdwatchers who say it’s a great place to view water birds up close.

But since New Year’s Day, birds have been dying—220 found so far—and Monday it was confirmed that the pond is infected with avian cholera.

The plant is now draining the pond water back through the treatment plant and once it’s completely dried over the summer, the cholera should be destroyed and the pond can be refilled.

But as the draining process is happening, they’re warning neighbors that it may get really smelly. The floor of the pond is covered with bird droppings and when they are exposed to air the rotting smell will be pretty strong.

The plant has ordered equipment that can turn the soil under once it’s dry enough, but until then neighbors will have to put up with it.

“This has been a bird sanctuary for 15-plus years and the birds do their duty out there,” said SBSA Manager Dan Child. “And there’s going to be an accumulation of bird droppings that we’re afraid are really going to cause some odors.

The dry Bay Area weather is also a mixed blessing. It’s allowing the pond to drain faster, but it’s also causing the wind – and odor – to blow back in the direction of homes.

“We are fortunate that we have the ability to de-water it,” said Child. “We are going to have some odors that are going to be an inconvenience over the short run. But in the long run, we’re definitely benefitting the long-term liability of the birds and the area as a whole.”

Draining the pond is the only sure way to stop the outbreak in that area and prevent future bird deaths, Child said.

“The bacteria will not survive once the soil has dried out,” he said.

Avian cholera can be fatal to birds but does not pose a threat to humans, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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