Mike Monichetti said he power-washed the decks behind his Sea Isle City seafood restaurant three times after Winter Storm Jonas and still had clumps of mud sticking to the wood.
Joseph and Luann Wercoch, of Grassy Sound in Middle Township, gratefully accepted cleaning supplies and towels from a disaster relief center in Wildwood, saying they had used all their own in trying to rid their home of mud left behind by the nor’easter.
Milissa Walters, owner of Kiwi Boutique in Sea Isle, said she was “devastated” by the “disgusting, smelly, yucky stuff that sticks instantly to everything.”
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Property and business owners noted the residue left behind by the nor’easter on Jan. 23-24 and again this week from astronomically high tidal flooding is unlike what they experienced in Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
“Mud is a sign it was a backbay flooding event,” said Michael Kennish, a research professor with the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. “If you’re living on the bayside, clay and mud are transported all over the streets and houses during these storms.”
If sand is left behind, it’s a sign the flooding came from the ocean, Kennish said. Sand, which is silicon dioxide, or quartz, does not have adhesive properties. “You can wash it off,” he said. “It won’t stick.”
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But clay, which settles to the bottom of bays and salt marshes, does attach to almost everything with which it comes in contact. Clay contains aluminum silicate and its grains carry an electrical charge, Kennish said, meaning it will stick to itself as well as attract material to itself.
“Clay tends to absorb things in the water, like pollution,” Kennish said. “It’s like a vacuum cleaner.”
When the mud remains on the bottom of the bay and salt marshes, it acts as a filter and helps cleanse the water by storing pollutants in the sediment, he said. When that mud is disturbed by a storm event and is washed ashore, it often does not drain back out with the tide. The receding tide deposits mostly organic matter, such as decomposing plant and animal life, but also some chemicals on lawns, sidewalks and streets. Those chemicals can include phosphorous, pesticides and herbicides, he said, and can add to the unpleasant smell of the mud if a heavy layer is left behind.
“If it gets on your property, it transfers that organic material to your house or street,” Kennish said. “It has an oily feel to it, and it’s very slippery, too. Once it gets onto a hard surface, it’s very hard to get off.”
Power-washing alone, as many property owners will attest, is ineffective against the mud, said Kennish, who suggested adding a detergent to the wash water.
“Unfortunately, this is going to be an ongoing challenge for people,” he said. “New Jersey has this insidious flooding going on and we have not even begun to address what’s going on on the bayside. It will get to the point where people will have to figure out if they want to deal with it.”