EPA: Foamy deposit probably a result of upwelling

The 'foamy goo' which has covered shores from Alabama to Panama City, Fla., since last Friday is probably a rare case of upwelling, says an Evironmental Protection Agency spokesperson.

Feb 14th, 2001

Feb. 14, 2001—The "foamy goo" which has covered shores from Alabama to Panama City, Fla., since last Friday is probably a rare case of upwelling, says an Evironmental Protection Agency spokesperson.

Investigators have not completed lab tests on the foamy substance washing up on the Florida panhandle's beaches, but an Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson said it is probably organic matter moved ashore by a phenomenon called upwelling.

According to Sava Varazo, a spokesperson from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the upwelling occurs when currents in the ocean cause turbulence, stirring organic matter lying on the Gulf of Mexico floor. "It's mother nature's way of washing up nutrients from the bottom," Varazo said.

The Florida DEP is waiting on tests from the Florida Marine Research Institute to determine exactly what the substance is, but it has not caused any fish kills or harmed sea birds, Varazo said. NOAA projections also agree with this theory.

"It looks like jellyfish material mixed with plankton and other plant life that has settled," Varazo said. It has a clear egg-white appearance, plus a brown tint caused by other organisms.

The occurrence of upwelling in this area is so rare and unpredictable that Varazo has not seen an instance of it in his 25 years of service with the department.

There has been a great deal of interest in this phenomenon from the media, he said. Perhaps this is because of recent media attention on the Gulf of Mexico's hypoxia or "dead" zone, which some EPA researchers believe is caused by excess nitrates draining from the Mississippi River Basin into the Gulf.

For more information, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site, http://www.gmpo.gov/.

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