The sargassum seaweed invasion of Seven Mile Beach is likely to be over by Wednesday when winds are predicted to shift and blow the unsightly organic material away, according to the Department of Environment.
But as large mats of sargassum seaweed continued to wash ashore along Seven Mile Beach over the weekend, clean-up crews fought to keep up with the influx.
A 12-man crew with the Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Unit of the Public Works Department spent several hours Friday morning removing seaweed from Public Beach by hand. The crew attempted to rake in some of the seaweed in the water, to catch it before the tide brought it ashore later in the day.
Unfortunately, the seaweed kept coming, and by mid-morning the crew’s clean beach was dotted with brown spots.
“That’s Mother Nature,” crew supervisor Kent Rankin said. “You can’t control that, but what we can do is clean it the best we can.”
The crew was out again on Monday, cleaning by hand, and Mr. Rankin said the amount of seaweed was “terrible.” He said the crews will continue to clean the beach every morning by hand as long as needed.
A beach cleaning machine that the unit usually uses is out of service, as some parts required to fix the machine have to be ordered from overseas, according to Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Acting General Manager Mark Bothwell.
Mr. Bothwell said that once the seaweed is removed, it is used to fill holes in swampland and areas of Crown property. Some is also given to farmers who use it for fertilizer, and some goes to the landfill.
Joseph Caputo, owner of a beach cleaning company called The Beach Cleaner, said he has been inundated with calls since the sargassum invasion began last week, as hotel and condominium managers were desperate to get their properties clean.
“Tourists pay for sea, sand and sun,” Mr. Caputo said. “That’s what they come here for, they don’t come here to sit on a stinky beach.”
The cleaning process Mr. Caputo employs involves a special machine that sifts sand out of the seaweed. It can take up to a whole day to clean the beach area of just one property.
Mr. Caputo works with the Department of Environment to ensure that turtle nests are avoided during cleaning.
He advises property owners to get rid of the material as quickly as possible, but also to watch the weather when planning a beach cleanup.
“If a big storm comes in, nobody’s going to be able to help until it’s over,” he said.
The Department of Environment was advising some property owners Monday to hold off on removing the seaweed until it is taken away naturally when the wind shifts.
“We have been working with property owners throughout the weekend and this morning, and now a lot of property owners are leaving it where it is and they’re raking paths to the water,” Wendy Williams, senior environmental assessment officer, said.
According to a bulletin released by the Department of Environment last week, the ideal method for dealing with the seaweed is to leave it where it is, since removal can sometimes be detrimental to the environment and harmful to turtle nests.
“The problem is when people remove the seaweed, they accidentally take sand with it,” said Ms. Williams. “So when you remove the seaweed, it has a destabilizing effect on the beach.”
Removing the seaweed also removes the barrier that keeps rough waves from coming up to the shoreline and eroding it, Ms. Williams said.
Property owners wishing to bring in heavy equipment to clean their beaches must first receive approval from the Department of Environment.
“Tourist properties don’t want this on their beach, and I understand why,” Ms. Williams said. “We’re not stopping anybody, we’re just making sure that it doesn’t remove turtle nests.”
Ms. Williams said if property owners wish to use excavators to clear the seaweed, it is best to let the seaweed dry first, so that when it is lifted up, the sand falls out.
Seaweed will continue to wash ashore until the end of the day Tuesday, according to Ms. Williams, but there should be no more mats of sargassum washing onto Seven Mile Beach for now.