MANCHESTER – Beachgoers may soon be able to stop pinching their noses, as town officials are considering a bacterial spray that could stanch the stench of the already dead red seaweed that has been haunting some area beaches.
The fluorescent green liquid, called Bio Remedy, speeds up the decomposition process and masks the smells that result from it, but would be for use only on the dead weeds.
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. So far the liquid has only been used on farms and ranches, according to Steven Kenney, Manchester's director of Public Works.
"We would be the first people to use their product for this type of situation," Kenney said in a telephone interview Thursday.
The invasive seaweed, Heterosiphonia japonica, is believed by scientists to have come to Cape Ann via Japanese boats.
Fibrous, thick and wholly, the red weed has been engulfing Manchester's beaches this summer, and leaving officials stumped as to how to oust it. Kenney said he found the possible antidote when he crossed paths with a Texas Refinery Corp. salesperson who had seen media coverage of the red seaweed.
"There's got to be a solution out there somewhere," Kenney said. "So, I've been thinking outside of the box."
With the promise of a nominal scent, town compost sites might open their pits up to some of the decomposed red seaweed, Kenney said. Officials hope to find an offshore location where they could stockpile the seaweed then inject it with Bio Remedy, and later haul it off to compost sites.
The department would like to cut out the middle step and spray the seaweed on the beaches, then haul the decomposed weeds away. The seaweed is expected to fully and scentlessly decompose within weeks of being treated, Kenney said.
"It might be a situation where we can find a home for this once it decomposes," Kenney said.
The product is safe for humans and animals, according to the Department of Public Works. But Manchester's Conservation Commission, along with an analyst from Massachusett's Department of Environmental Protection, is researching the product and examining its potential affects on the beach habitats, according to Mary Reilly, the town's conservation administrator.
Reilly said the commission needs to research the product's ingredients, look at its usage further and determine its safety for humans and animals and affects on water life and wildlife.
"I wouldn't be comfortable using the bacteria without doing some of these things and also getting an opinion from the DEP," Reilly said.
If the commission and environmental protection analyst decide the product is safe, Kenney would like to try it on Black Cove Beach in about two weeks, he said. The town would pay about $140 to spray down the dead seaweed on that beach, according to Kenney.
For now, though, Conservation Commission members are hesitant about using the product on the beaches, near the ocean water.
"You don't want to go out and treat it on a public beach when you don't know what the effect will be," Reilly said.
Whether or not Bio Remedy proves effective, the search for a complete solution to the red seaweed invasion will continue, since the product, having no affect on live seaweed, would be used only to treat seaweed already decomposing on beaches.
The red seaweed will continue to suffocate eel beds, overtake lobster habitats and gulp up all the water's nutrients. On the beach, people will still tread through the red weed.
"It takes care of one of the problems, but it doesn't help the environmental issues," Kenney said. "This is strictly to take care of what's washed up on the beach."
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or email@example.com.
Tests force beach closures MANCHESTER -- Two town beaches have undergone swimming closures for the third time this summer, due to failed weekly water tests. The weekly water examinations, which led officials to close West Manchester and White Beach on Wednesday, test the geomean levels in the beach water. The geomean levels have no connection to the invasive red seaweed that has also engulfed some of Manchester's beaches, according to the Board of Health, which facilitates the bacteria tests each Wednesday. Officials suspect run-off and heavy rain are significant factors in the test failures. The board also sent letters to homeowners in beach areas last year, urging them to inspect or repair their septic systems. Gloucester, after undergoing major sewer work in the past year, has had no beach closures this summer, according to city officials. The water at Manchester's beaches was retested late Thursday afternoon and, if the Geomean levels are acceptable, the beaches could be reopened as soon as today, according to Board of Health officials . -- Marjorie Nesin