Smelly Seaweed Plagues the Jersey Shore

By Brian Thompson
|  Tuesday, Jul 19, 2011  |  Updated 7:40 AM EDT
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One New Jersey beach is dealing with a smelly seaweed washing up on it's shores and ruining a pleasant day at the beach.

One New Jersey beach is dealing with a smelly seaweed washing up on it's shores and ruining a pleasant day at the beach.

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Some New Jersey homeowners are getting a taste, or perhaps whiff of what pollution is doing to Barnegat Bay -- the largest coastal estuary on the Jersey Shore.

A thick, wide and smelly carpet of mostly dying sea lettuce has been caught by wind and tides in a cove bordering the Seawood Harbor development in Brick Township.

"My tongue is burning," longtime homeowner Kristina Papianni told NBC New York while she stood just a few feet away.

But the noxious effects have been felt by residents of the dozens of nearby homes since the July Fourth weekend as warm water started cooking up what one resident called a "witches' brew" of dying plant material.

Ocean County health officials identified hydrogen sulfide, more commonly known as "swamp gas" as the culprit.

And Ocean County Public Health Coordinator Daniel Regeyne warned residents to stay inside when the smell is especially strong on still, hot days.

"They should try to avoid the area," Regeyne said, then added, "The health impact is not really known."

That wasn't hard for many, like Papianni who said from the first day, "You could not go out of your home, you could not sit outside -- it was that bad."

Officials said most of the muck is dying sea lettuce, which crowds out more beneficial sea grass when heavy doses of nutrients like lawn fertilizer and sewage plant overflows wash downstream and into the bay.

While a new law passed earlier this year bans most nitrogen in lawn fertilizers, it is being phased in and a separate proposal to deal with sewage and storm line overflows was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.

For Seawood Harbor resident Jim Davy, it means learning to live with this effect of pollution for a long time.

"It'll probably take years before something can be cleaned up around here," Davy said.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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