Manatee County hires contractor to clean up red tide mess

In the thick of the red tide crisis, Manatee County is taking action to clean up.

The county is hiring help to clear the intracoastal waterways.

The smell is nearly unbearable near the intracoastal in parts of Bradenton. Hundreds of dead fish litter the waterway.

Some residents say the stench is so bad they haven’t been able to come out of their homes.

Greg Arnold, who’s lived in Bradenton for nearly 20 years, says it’s the worst he’s ever seen.

“Neighbors couldn’t come out of their house the stench was so bad. I’d come down to check on things and I’ve smelled some pretty bad things in my days and it was pretty bad,” Arnold said.

Manatee County is now taking action, calling a news conference Friday afternoon to unveil plans to hire a contractor to manage clean-up efforts in these residential waterways.

“The nature and the magnitude of this fish kill that has collected in many of the canals was something that no individual could possibly handle and this is the right time for government to step in,” Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said.

Since the county doesn’t have a marine fleet, it’s hiring Aptin, a vendor based out of Boca Raton to handle clean-up in the smaller waterways.

“It’s better late than never. It would have been nice to have done several days ago, but no one could really prepare for this. I don’t really blame the county no one would know it was gonna be this bad,” Arnold added.

Already, crews have removed about 151 tons of red tide waste from county beaches since last week.

County leadership is planning to learn from this red tide crisis so, if this happens again, the wait for clean-up won’t be as long.

“This is the first time we’ve taken on a challenge like this. We will be a little bit more prepared. We have contracts that we will put into place this time around that we will hopefully be able to use in the future,” Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said.

Officials say it’s too early to tell if this red tide outbreak will have a long-lasting financial burden on the county. The current budget allocated about $800,000 for unplanned expenses.

At least $500,000 of that money will be spent on this clean-up, which is set to get underway Monday.