Algae or pollution off NC coast?

Coast Guard testing samples of the miles long brown substance to make sure it doesn't include crude oil

WILMINGTON, NC | September 22, 2010

The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday responded to reports of an unknown substance in the water, which was discovered by boaters in several locations off the North Carolina coast.

According to Coast Guard pollution investigators, so far, the substance is brown, stick, and odorless, which is typically consistent with algae. "Coast Guard pollution investigators are testing samples from multiple locations to make a final determination of whether or not hydrocarbons are present in the water off the coast of North Carolina," Cmdr. Steve McGee said.

The testing of the substance is still ongoing. However, it's unusual for algae to present itself in such a form that is worrisome to people familiar with the coastline, as it has been reported as far north as Onslow Beach, N.C. and as far south as Charleston, S.C.

If it is algae, then it is one of the largest and most abundant forms of life on the Earth, as well as the oldest. With fossil records dating back to 3 billion years ago, it varies in size, shape, and color. In fact, algae also acts as pollution control in the water it resides in, by capturing fertilizer from runoff farms.

The responding Coast Guard units from Sector North Carolina include the Marine Safety Unit Wilmington, Station Wrightsville Beach, and Station Oak Island, as well as an Air Station.

(Copyright 2010 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.)

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