MANCHESTER — The stench of red seaweed wafted through the air at Manchester’s White Beach for what officials hope will be the last time this season.
A bulldozer and a pair of dump trucks filed down the gravel road Friday morning, parking at an opening in the beach’s rocky enclosure.
“Well we’re gonna try to clean as much of the seaweed as we can,” said bulldozer operator Dave Doucette.
Public Works Director Steve Kenney, who spent the season searching for a solution to the red seaweed, called Heterosiphonia, decided to clear the beaches once and for all this season and treat the cleared weed for the first time, with a non-chemical solution.
The department had wanted to test the solution, called Bio Remedy, directly on the beach, but was unable to secure permission from the town’s conservation committee, according to Kenney.
Crews took action Friday, however, after receiving reports that this season is unlikely to be plagued with more of the matted red weed, which suffocates other plants and gives off a sulfuric smell as it decomposes.
“We are going to clean the beaches and see what happens,” Kenney said Wednesday.
Doucette drove the humming yellow bulldozer along the beach, dragging the machine’s bucket to scrape piles of the bristly red seaweed off the beach’s surface, then shaking the bucket, forcing clumps of the dead weed to tumble into a dump truck’s bed.
Crews will use the dump trucks to transport the dead seaweed to the town’s compost site, where the department will treat the dead weed with Bio Remedy, testing to see if the formula does its job in speeding up the decomposition process and masking the odor that accompanies decomposition.
Texas Refinery Corp., the company that creates Bio Remedy, calls it an “all-natural blend of bacterial strains.”
The product, which is a condensed form of bacteria that helps materials decompose in nature, was originally created for farmers in the Midwestern and Southern United States to use on poultry and livestock manure, according to Texas Refinery Corp.
The formula, which can only be used on dead seaweed, could be helpful to Manchester officials next year, since, despite a recent drop in the amount of red seaweed washing up on beaches, they will likely still be fighting the seaweed, according to officials.
Northeastern University professor Matthew Bracken, who has studied the seaweed with his students this summer, said not only has the amount of seaweeds covering local beaches decreased over the season, but the amount of red seaweed found in the mixture of seaweeds has reduced too.
Bracken said a coming change in season, from summer to autumn, could have caused a slowed seaweed production.
“This may just be kind of natural cycling of it,” Bracken said.
But, that may not mean the red seaweed menace is gone for good, according to Bracken and also Michael J. DeRosa of DeRosa Environmental Consulting Inc., who is helping the town layout its course of action for next spring.
“We think it’s kind of here to stay,” DeRosa said. “It’s gonna be a new thing to deal with on all these beaches.” In addition to invading Manchester’s beaches, the red weed covered most of Rockport’s Front Beach in late June, and has also turned up elsewhere.
The trick, DeRosa said, will be to prevent the seaweed from piling up and matting itself into layers on the town’s beaches.
“If you leave it, the mat just gets bigger and deeper with layer upon layer of seaweed. Then it’s a foot thick and just putrid,” DeRosa said.
DeRosa said he and his associates are considering clearing the beaches weekly to avoid seaweed pile-up. And, he said, there has been some talk about using a fisherman’s old net to gather the seaweed in the water, before it gets into the beach areas, then dump it further out into a different ocean current.
DeRosa said, whatever the solution, the trick will be to stick with the removal and get an early start combating the seaweed.
“Once it becomes so thick and overwhelming,” DeRosa said, “there’s no magic dust that you could put on it to make it go away.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.