Agricultural Runoff Turns French Beach into Deadly Algae Stew
Due to agricultural runoff of fertilizers and human and animal waste, combined with global warming, reports of toxic algae are on the rise. This is pretty devastating: On July 28, Vincent Petit, a 28-year-old researcher in a state-run virology lab, was riding his horse on the Saint-Michel-en-Greves beach in Brittany, when the two were sucked into a toxic algae ooze. Petit was conscious long enough to witness the horse die within 30 seconds until he himself passed out, only to be rescued by bystanders. From the AP's story:
Harmless while in water, the algae form dangerous gases — notably hydrogen sulfide, with its characteristic rotten-egg smell — when they wash up on land and decay. A white crust forms and traps the gases, which are released when stepped on or otherwise disturbed. Over time, putrefied algae turns sand into a black silt muck, sometimes containing pockets of poison gas.
According to the BBC: "Despite its small population of 3m people living on just 5% of the country's agricultural land, Britanny is home to 60% of France's pig farms, 45% of its poultry farms and 30% of its dairy farms. Following public outcry and bad press, Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced that the French government would pay for cleaning the beaches in Brittany.