Fish out of water: PIRTEK helps keep red tide cleanup on track

It’s been a tough summer for parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The phenomenon known as “red tide” has blanketed beaches in dead marine animals and filled the ocean breeze with a stench. Consequently, many tourists have stayed away and locals have busied themselves with the arduous task of cleanup.

PIRTEK Sarasota in Sarasota, Florida, has been there to lend a hand during the ongoing remediation efforts.

“It’s significant: The water here is a brownish-red color, not the beautiful blue-green, like we’re used to,” said Art Snyder, operations manager at PIRTEK Sarasota. “It’s been a serious problem here and we at PIRTEK are glad to be helping out in whatever way we can.” Snyder also oversees operations for PIRTEK franchises in Lakeland, Ocala and Fort Myers.

During the red tide outbreak, hydraulically powered sweepers stay busy at the beach removing dead fish and other debris. The city of Longboat Key near Sarasota recently needed hose work on some of its idled sand-raking equipment, so a PIRTEK Mobile Service Vehicle came out to perform the work.

Red tide is so named because of how the Gulf of Mexico’s seasonal proliferation of algae gives the waters a reddish tinge. The algae explosion – especially severe in 2018 – depletes oxygen levels in the ocean. As an unpleasant result, heaps of fish and other sea creatures succumb to the oxygen deficit and wash up on shore where they pollute the beaches.

Another negative impact is that it renders shellfish in the affected regions dangerous to eat. There are also concerns that toxins from the algae can mix with ocean spray and become airborne, causing irritations in people’s throats, eyes and noses. The Florida Department of Health is cautioning people with chronic respiratory conditions to avoid areas where red tide is a problem.

“Red tide has really affected my family’s weekend visits to the beach,” Snyder said. “We haven’t been there in a few months now. It bothers people’s eyes and throats, it makes breathing very difficult.”

A number of different machines are designed to clean the resulting mess. One piece that PIRTEK serviced is a tractor that pulls a small trailer across the sands. The tractor uses a power “rake” that whisks the debris up a conveyor and into a holding compartment.

Snyder said that it’s critical to keep the machines operational during the red tide crisis, because they’re in perpetual use. “If that rake’s not constantly cleaning up what the waves bring in, the area is littered with fish – it’s a terrible eyesore,” he said.

Technicians Giovanni Austin and Eric Sanchez have both worked on the remediation equipment. Sanchez said that when he arrived recently to replace a blown hydraulic hose, the machinery still had rotting fish inside.

“Smell-wise, this was definitely the toughest service call I’ve ever had to do,” Sanchez said. “But we got the job done.”