BIDDEFORD — Swaths of reddish-brown seaweed covering a popular Biddeford Pool beach have in recent weeks angered many residents and tourists alike.

The seaweed washed up during a storm in late June. At its most abundant, about a week ago, it blanketed nearly every inch of the typically sandy Boathouse Beach, Trevor Canace, who works as a lifeguard at the beach, said Thursday.

Since the seaweed washed up, Canace said the beach has been scarcely populated and he’s heard many people complain about it. “This is normally packed,” he said, looking out at only about a half dozen people sitting or walking on the beach Thursday afternoon.

Seaweed wasn’t the only thing the storm threw onto the beach, said Canace. Trash, rocks, dead fish and even traps full of live lobsters have washed up, he said. “It’s nasty. In parts it clumps together, and it’s like a foot thick.”

In a Facebook post on July 2, Mayor Alan Casavant said many people had been contacting City Hall about the seaweed. “What I have learned is that the city cannot remove it, without a DEP permit, and getting a permit takes months,” he also wrote.

That post triggered more than 140 comments, in which users carried out a frenzied debate over whether the seaweed should stay or go. Councilor Bob Mills, in a comment on the post, dubbed the situation “Seaweedgate.”

While some commenters expressed disgust over the piles of seaweed, which exude an unpleasant smell and attract flies, others felt it would be best to let Mother Nature run its course.

City Manager John Bubier said Thursday that the city has applied for a permit with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection that would allow public works crews to remove the seaweed, using equipment owned by Old Orchard Beach.

But as Casavant pointed out in his Facebook post, receiving the permit can be a lengthy process, and Canace estimated that within a couple of weeks, the tides would return things to normal anyway. The rocks that have washed up, however, could remain until next year, he said.

But there’s still a chance it could take longer. “We had a pretty gnarly storm last year and that (seaweed) was here for weeks,” he said.

Amy Labelle was one of a handful of beachgoers to brave the seaweed-topped sands Thursday afternoon, and she said in her family’s eight years summering in Biddeford Pool she has never seen this much seaweed.

“It would be nice if they could get rid of it,” said Labelle, who lives in Exeter, New Hampshire. “This beach is usually pure sand. That’s why we love coming here. … It’s kind of a bummer.”

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

        Comments are not available on this story.

        filed under: