OCEAN COUNTY, NJ (WNBC/NBC) - A thick carpet of decaying seaweed caused by pollution is making life unpleasant along the Jersey shore.
A thick, wide and smelly carpet of mostly dying sea lettuce has been caught by wind and tides in a cove bordering the Seawood Harbor development in the township of Brick, NJ.
"My tongue is burning," longtime homeowner Kristina Papianni said.
The noxious effects have been felt by residents of the dozens of nearby homes since the July 4 weekend as warm water started cooking up what one resident called a "witches' brew" of dying plant material.
The Ocean County health officials identified hydrogen sulfide as the culprit.
Ocean County Public Health Coordinator Daniel Regeyne warned residents to stay inside when the smell is especially strong on still, hot days.
"They should try to avoid the area," Regeyne said. "The health impact is not really known."
Officials said most of the muck is dying sea lettuce, which crowds out more beneficial sea grass when heavy doses of nutrients, like lawn fertilizer and sewage plant overflows, wash downstream into the bay.
While a new law passed earlier this year bans most nitrogen in lawn fertilizers, it is being phased in, and a separate proposal to deal with sewage and storm line overflows was vetoed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
For Seawood Harbor resident Jim Davy, it meant learning to live with this effect of pollution for a long time.
"It'll probably take years before something can be cleaned up around here," Davy said.
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