The video is compelling: A lone weatherman, Tucker Barnes, reporting live from the 25th Street Boardwalk in 60+ M.P.H. winds, absolutely coated in sickly green/brown sludge. Some was in his mouth, some was definitely in his hair and all of it was kind of gross.
A relatively innocuous and factual explanation followed by a newscaster explained that sea foam is common, but usually occurs when some other organic material is in the water. She then listed possible contaminants, including raw sewage, and a firestorm was born.
“It’s probably cyanobacteria,” Professor Bill Boicourt of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science said.
Cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae, are found nearly everywhere on Earth.
“It’s not a scenario I’d consider,” Dr. Roman Jensien, science coordinator at the Maryland Coastal Bays, said.
Ocean City is not covered in poo. While no one has yet produced a testable and verifiable sample of the offending foam, the facts must be stretched pretty far before it becomes conceivable.
“The ocean outfall of the sewage plant is seven miles away. It’s hard to believe the material would come back seven miles. The sewage plant doesn’t discharge that kind of material and Ocean City wasn’t flooded to the extent where it’s a plausible scenario for me,” Jensien said.
The Town also takes issue with the conclusion. In their release, Ocean City maintains they shut down the Wastewater Treatment facility at 6 p.m. on Saturday to prevent spills or leakages.
Ocean City’s Insiders
also question the assertion, citing Ocean City’s past record of reporting and issuing warnings due to possible past contamination.