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Sep 6, 2023

Putting Sargassum to Use as Landfill in San Pedro

Sargassum has been an eyesore along beaches across the country for over a decade.  In San Pedro, those challenges, including the putrid odor of decaying sea grass, have been well documented. Accumulation of the rotting algae along the shoreline has impacted tourism in these communities for many years, as they tried feverishly to get hired hands to quickly cart away the rot. But now, after it has been found to be useful as a good form of landfill in the swampy areas of the island, the San Pedro Town Council is actively encouraging people who need landfill in those swampy areas to put sargassum to use as landfill. As News Five’s Marion Ali noted today, it is the hope of the council that when sargassum mats start to drift ashore again next February, they will have enough homebuilders waiting to use the floating seaweed as foundation for their homes. Here’s that report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The San Pedro Town Council is encouraging residents who need to fill their property or walkways to use sargassum. Today, San Pedro Mayor, Wally Nunez explained that until all of the research is in on the acceptable ways of using sargassum, this one has proven safe and that the council has trucks that take it to different areas free of cost.


Wally Nunez

Wally Nunez, Mayor, San Pedro

“We try to use that Sargassum for the San Mateo area, for Boca del Rio area. If we’re coming down closer to town, then it goes to the San Pedrito area. That’s one of the best things that we have used it for to fill in different areas. And I know some of the people want to use it to be able to put it as the base and then they start to put some of the white marl on top of it.”


Marion Ali

“And it’s proven to be…”


Wally Nunez

“It’s proven to work, yes. In different areas it has worked and so that’s what we are using it for.”


The San Pedro Town Council is hoping that if enough of residents look at sargassum as useful landfill, come next February, in the midst of the peak tourism season, the rotting algae won’t pose a threat to the industry. News Five visited the D.F.C. Extension area where many of the residents have used sargassum to fill their property. Gilbert Henry is one of those residents.


Gilbert Henry

Gilbert Henry, Resident

“This place is like swamp, so normally, you want landfill. That’s what we use sea grass for, for landfill.”


Marion Ali

“So you’ve used it, explain your…”


Gilbert Henry

“Yes, we use it. We use it and it work very, very, very, very well, only because you have to use a lot, but sometimes some people don’t want to use a lot, so what they normally do, they use like trash first and then they put it on the top, then it rots and turns beautiful white sand.”


The beautiful white sand is what is considered a grade one type of Sargassum landfill. Valentine Rosado is a biodiversity scientist with the San Pedro Town Council. He says it is the most sought after grade. Interestingly, he explained that this type is actually three different types of algae that get entangled together right in the shoals of our waters and are then washed ashore in bundles.


Valentine Rosado

Valentine Rosado, Biodiversity Scientist

“This is the turtle grass, we have the manatee grass, and for a long time we’ve had the actual Sargasso, Sargassum, right? Now, we collectively look at all of them and call them Sargassum, which comes in together, right, because it really comes in together and once they pick it up off the beach, they don’t discriminate, they don’t separate it, they just mix it all together. The manatee grass and the turtle grass, they don’t come from far. You see all that brown that we see out there, that’s where they’re coming from.”


Residents who choose to fill their properties with sargassum prefer the grade one or the mixture of the three algaes because it includes beach sand and its top layer also turns white when it disintegrates within a month. That was what Daisy Cifuentes also discovered and liked about sargassum as landfill.


Daisy Cifuentes

Daisy Cifuentes, Resident

“After a while it gets, like, sandy and, yeah, mm-hmm.”


Marion Ali

“So it works well?”


Daisy Cifuentes

“Yes, it works well. We had a lot of water here and we couldn’t, we had to fill with sea grass and Sargassum, and it was hard because we had to put some rocks or something fi mek we could walk on.”

The other, darker grade of sargassum, which is only the actual sargassum that drifts from miles away is also used as landfill, but produces a darker type of sand when it rots, as is seen in this yard where it was dumped. On the compound of Caribbean Villas Hotel, owner, Beth Hart has a pile stacked high that had accumulated at the beachfront over a couple months. She has had to hire men to clean it away. Now she has an alternate plan that she hopes will solve the problem permanently.


Beth Hart

Beth Hart, Owner, Caribbean Villas Hotel

“We do accumulate a lot of Sargassum here, and we spend a lot of time cleaning it up. We have a golf cart with a trailer and we take the sargassum off the beach front and we transport it to the distant part of our property where we’re currently storing it now. We’re in the process of, um, of getting approval for a wall here, a seawall, like many of the properties do around us so that it doesn’t beach.”


Hart also welcomes anyone who needs to fill their land to bring their vehicles and take as much as they’d like, free of cost. Meanwhile, the possibility of using sargassum to build houses is not likely to materialize. Mayor Wally Nunez told us that it would necessitate even more of the rotting algae that they are seeking to do away with.


Wally Nunez

“The issue with the Sarga blocks would have been that they would need a lot of Sargassum at a time to be able to build a couple bricks. And it would probably require for us to import Sargassum, which is contrary to what we’re looking for.”


Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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