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The Boston Globe


Brown algae can still bring odors to North Shore beaches

For more than 100 years, beachgoers in Lynn and Nahant called it “the smell.” It came from a rare algae that settled and decomposed on local beaches. For decades, scientists were puzzled about how to eliminate the odor. Finally, in 2008, the Department of ­Conservation and Recreation decided to send out work crews with front-end loaders to scoop up the algae every morning from April to November.

That plan worked for five years. But last July, the odor ­returned for about six weeks when the brown algae, known as Pilayella littoralis , was ­allowed to cake up on Nahant and Lynn beach. As it decomposed in sand under the hot sun, the algae, which can rise up like a bronze carpet on hundreds of yards of sand, released a sulfide odor akin to the smell of rotten eggs.

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