What’s all the brown stuff on the beach and in the water at Pensacola Beach lately that smells so bad? I have heard rumors going around that it is raw sewage. Those rumors were apparently started by someone who did not know what they were talking about. But you can see that the water is pretty brown looking.
The good news is that it is not sewage. Pensacola Beach Safety Director, Bob West reports that the waters at the beach are tested weekly and the fecal coliform counts are actually very low. So what is the brown stuff? It is decaying organic matter washed into the Gulf by all the recent rains. As it decays it, looks and smells bad. When surfing the other day, I felt like it was making it harder to breath, sort of like the red tide on Pensacola Beach a few years ago.
Fortunately, the decaying brown junk will not hurt you and will hopefully soon be gone. Then maybe the Pensacola Beach water will start looking like this again.
Most of the time, the Pensacola Beach water is nice and clear. As you go towards Destin, the water gets even clearer. But as you go towards Alabama, the beach water becomes more murky. Why is this?
The answer is that you can blame it on the Mississippi River (and more locally, Mobile Bay). When the Gulf of Mexico is calm and there is very little current, or an easterly current, Pensacola Beach water is usually very clear. However, when waves get larger, they tend to stir things up and the water will cloud up a little.
When the winds and currents switch to the west, all the muddy murky waters from Mobile Bay and the Mississippi river drift this direction and that is why Pensacola Beach water gets so murky sometimes. Once the waves drop and the current subsides, the water generally clears back up within a few days.
Update: As of March 28, 2010, the water on Pensacola Beach is starting to clear up. It is still a little cloudy from the wave action, but the brown stuff appears to be gone from most areas of Pensacola Beach.