NiCE extended as sargassum keeps rolling in

| 01/08/2019 | 35 Comments
Cayman News Service
NiCE workers clear sargassum from the beach

(CNS): The ongoing saga of the sargassum influx has led the government to extend the National Community Enhancement (NiCE) bi-annual clean-up for another two weeks for some of the 486 Caymanians who signed up for this summer’s programme. The minister responsible for infrastructure, Joey Hew, whose ministry is spearheading the project, told the Legislative Assembly that although workers had cleared over 200 tonnes of the seaweed, it was an ongoing problem that required “continuous effort”.

Sargassum clearance over the last two weeks focused on heavily affected areas, including the South Sound boat launch and boardwalk areas, the Frank Sound launch ramp and Coe Wood Beach in Bodden Town. He said that the extra two weeks was part of a pilot to help the ministry understand the resources needed to manage the issue island-wide.

“There is a need for a proactive and collaborative approach as there is no simple solution,” the minister told his LA colleagues. He explained that a task force had been formed to develop a national sargassum plan and it is working across several ministries and departments to tackle this mounting seaweed problem, which is affecting the entire region.

The excessive blooming of the sargassum is being blamed on nutrient run-off into the Atlantic, from the Amazon Basin on one side to the West African coast on the other, along with an increase in ocean temperatures. Scientists say that a patch of this seaweed is some 5,000 miles across and is washing up on shores and beaches across the Caribbean and the Americas, posing a serious threat to the region’s tourism sector.

The Cayman Islands task force is therefore also collaborating with other countries and gathering information from across the region to see what solutions, if any, are working or have proved to be the most successful in removing the seaweed.

Hew said the Department of Agriculture is testing the sargassum for use as fertilizer or even feed, and where it could be safely stored. Otherwise, it is going to the dump to be processed. But the minister reassured MLAs that their constituents are free to go collect the seaweed if they want to use it, at their own risk. He reminded gardeners and small holders to ensure it is cleaned and the salt washed off.

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Category: Jobs, Local News, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I doubt that they have picked up and properly disposed of 440,925 Ilbs of sargassum.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s great that the government is working to address the problem on Grand Cayman but what are they doing to clean up the nasty stuff washing up around the Sister Islands?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Where is this stuff being dumped? I hope CIG know that sargassum contains heavy metals like arsenic which will contaminate our water table!

    This stuff is hazardous in many ways, so think twice before using it as fertilizer!

    • Anonymous says:

      No its not.

      • Anonymous says:

        Says the guy who spread it all over his garden! Let me know how that arsenic toxicity works out for you bro.

    • Slow Death & Complacency says:

      You probably have arsenic contaminated soil in your own backyard many times worse than the threat from composted sargassum. You’ve probably been exposed to arsenic if you’ve consumed locally farmed produce or livestock.

      The island’s soils are already heavily contaminated with arsenic & chromium, some places at industrial levels. The trace levels in this sargassum are at parts per billion levels compared to parts per thousand levels in existing contaminated soils here. The levels of plant contamination depends on species, grasses being some of the worst, this poses an added risk to grazing livestock. Other plants that have high water uptake may also be contaminated.

      Where has this contamination come from? Well years and years of burning treated lumber in back yards, old construction sites, makeshift storm debris dump sites and airborne fallout from previously mentioned sites.

      Where there’s no will, there’s now way. DEH/Dept. Ag. are really not interested in doing widespread testing as they might just open a BIG CAN of worms. This is very sad when the equipment to do local spot screening of soils is relatively cheap at $15K. A high school grad can be trained up in 2 weeks to use this equipment too!

      • J|) says:

        If you get your facts from some anonymous person in an internet comment box please reevaluate your intelligence.

        Not saying that burning tons of wood on one piece of land is perfectly fine, but no one in a half mile radius of me does it.. So how can you conspire that the whole island is contaminated?

        • Anonymous says:

          That was done after Ivan. Plenty information about that. Bogus testing by Jamaican company is not to be trusted. Has not been done properly.

        • Slow Death & Complacency says:

          Do you know what happened to treated lumber debris in the 60s up until 2005? Being one of the people working on this issue during and after Ivan I have access to lab analysis records so I can safely say without giving up my identity you are amiss. The might be a few pristine spots where soils haven’t been impacted, but you might be surprised to where the hot spots actually are. You may or may not get answers if you FOI the relevant authorities but I would certainly not be ignorant or dismiss this issue as hearsay.

          You just might be one of the lucky ones if you say you have no contamination from arsenic or chromium in your soils, but based on my findings I’d get my soil checked if you don’t know where it came from. People have short memories, about where the Ivan burn sites were, and what about the debris sites long before Ivan? Those who were ever downwind might have a memory. How the contaminated ash transported? How did it all (not all) finally get to GT dump? The trucks used were not properly covered so significant quantity went airborne along the way.

          Face it, the thing to do back in the day was burn all your trash in a community pile or in your backyard heap, plastics, batteries included.
          I wish you the best of health but you should be very cautious about where your provision is grown in Cayman.

          • farma says:

            I would never grow my produce in a contaminated area and I’ve been growing locally on my land for 29 years! talking foolishness

      • Kathryn says:

        Why don’t you just have it tested in multiple places and tell the news channels?

    • Anonymous says:

      Joey has made a living selling toxic chemicals, you think any of this concerns him?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Workers should have the opportunity to apply for job to clean up seaweed if they so choose.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Those with the internet, read months ago that this year’s bloom is a tropical trans-atlantic problem extending from Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, and not clearing any time soon. Minister Hew should have developed a much longer-term plan/solution/budget to remedy what’s going to continue to wash up for months. Extending beach crews for merely two weeks shows an acute lack of fact-sensitivity, geo-awareness, and duty, that sadly, will be remembered as the hallmark of this government (for as long as it is allowed to continue).

    • Anonymous says:

      I gather from the article that they are using the continuation of this programme to study the problem and what may be needed to stop it from depresssing our tourism numbers. If you read TripAdvisor you would see that tourists are trying to avoid the sargassum and even want to know which hotels have it on their beaches and which don’t. You’re right, it’s a regional problem we can’t stop at the source, but we can mitigate the impact on us.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Great news. For all.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Occupational hazard for Nice workers. Are they protected?

    Sargassum seaweed on Florida beaches contains arsenic and other health hazards.

    “…the effective protection of the populations against H2S emission from Sargassum decomposition requires the adequate knowledge of H2S and ammonia emissions, their degree of toxicities and effects on the environment…”
    Sargassum invasion in the Caribbean: the role of medical and scientific cooperation

  8. SSM345 says:

    “prolonged contact with the Sargassum weed, or inhaling the hydrogen sulfide gas it gives off as it decomposes on the beach, can cause heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, vertigo, headache and skin rashes”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Labourers are expendable here, you should know that unless you’re fresh of the plane?

    • Anonymous says:

      “…minister reassured MLAs that their constituents are free to go collect the seaweed if they want to use it, at their own risk…”

      And this statement is coming not from “Joe-the-plumber”, but from the Minister of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure!

      May be Minister of Health, Sports, Youth and Culture wants to intervene since his fellow Minister Hew has no expertise in the matter? Otherwise, it smells like gross negligence (deliberate and reckless disregard for the safety of others).

  9. J|) says:

    Quite like bailing out a boat which has a hole that can’t be easily patched.


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