'Sludge' off Anna Maria Island is algae, not oil

MANATEE — Beach-goers are complaining about a sludge-like substance that washed up along the beaches over the weekend, but county officials said today it is not oil.

“The material people are seeing and smelling is a plant-based algae,” said Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator. “It’s been recurring several years, as a result of the water warming, and it runs through the water column two- to four-feet.”

“When it comes ashore, it looks like an oil slick,” Azzara said.

The substance is not poisonous, nor harmful to the skin, and typically lasts days or weeks, then disappears, Azzara said.

Azzara emphasized it’s not related to the BP oil spill of 2010.

“It’s a naturally-occurring algae,” he said.