Several of the most recognized beaches of the southwest coast of Puerto Rico are invaded by sargassum, which hinders bathers and visitors to enjoy these important natural resources. The situation took Guánica Mayor Ismael Rodríguez Ramos by surprise, who told EL VOCERO that this is the first time that sargassum has reached Playa Santa in large quantities.
The executive assigned 10 municipal employees from the Public Works and Emergency Management offices to clean up the area and requested assistance from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), but the request was denied, he said.
"We requested to use a 'digger' to remove the sargassum because it is thousands of pounds of material, but the DNER told us we could not use it because of their regulations. So I requested equipment to move it (the sargassum) from the shore and they told me they didn't have it. I asked for DNER personnel to be assigned to us and they didn't have any either," said Rodríguez Ramos.
The mayor demanded action on the part of the agency in the maintenance of his town's resources since, he said, they do not even supply him with garbage bags to pick up the garbage on the beach, a task that the municipality performs twice a week. Rodríguez Ramos expressed his concern about the sudden change in the movement of sargassum along the Guanique coast, where it usually accumulates in areas such as Guaypao. There, tired of the constant bad smell, neighbors of the area, the municipality, and other entities collected 1,300 pounds of sargassum during a cleanup on June 26.
"I hope this is an isolated event and that it does not happen again, since Playa Santa is one of Guánica's main attractions," he said. In the case of Cabo Rojo, the vegetative material affects important tourist attractions such as La Playuela, the Combate area, and the Boquerón beach resort, confirmed Mayor Jorge Morales Wiscovitch of the New Progressive Party (NPP). "The biggest problem we have right now is in the Playuela area, where the sargassum has been accumulating for the past two months and we have not been able to use machinery to clean it up because it is a protected area," he explained.
The executive said that although the DNER did not provide heavy equipment to clean the beach due to a large amount of sargassum, it did offer municipal personnel. "The DNER personnel will clean the beach by hand. They will remove the sargassum and leave it in an area to dry and then remove it from the area," said Morales Wiscovitch, who was not given a date for the start of the work.
However, he anticipated that the sargassum problem will be extended during the next few days due to the fact that this material is expected to continue arriving at the coast when the long weekend is approaching due to next Monday's holiday. Above "the lighthouse area (of Cabo Rojo) you can see in the distance many patches of sargassum on the horizon," he said.
In the case of the Boquerón and Combate area, Morales Wiscovitch mentioned that the sargassum began to accumulate during the past few days causing discomfort due to the strong stench that these algae expel once they begin to decompose. "We are going to meet with the DNER to see how we can collaborate in the cleanup of Combate and Boquerón, and determine when the work will begin," he added.