Seaweeds claim victim at Punta Catalina

The onslaught of sargassum (seaweed) is not only affecting the beaches of the Dominican Republic, it also creates an enormous problem for the huge thermo-electric plants that use seawater for cooling. In the case of the power facility at Punta Catalina, the administrators have hired a company of divers to assist in removing the sargasso from the intake screens of the power plant. Each day professional divers and their equipment go down and remove the seaweeds.

On Saturday, 3 June 2023, one of them, 20-year old Elías Poling, perished during his stint underwater. His co-worker returned to the surface. Both divers had been inspected and checked according to strict protocol before entering the water. It is still unclear as to the exact cause of the young diver’s death. A DR1 source advanced that the power plant suctioned the contracted diver, causing his death. Punta Catalina’s Unit #2 is currently undergoing a major maintenance operation and will be out of service for 40 days.

Punta Catalina assured that the diver was “strictly” following the established protocols and was carrying the necessary equipment for the job. At the time of his death, Poling was accompanied by a fellow diver. An investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the tragedy.

Sargassum is a type of seaweed, or brown algae that spends its life on the ocean’s surface and floats in large masses. Sargassum is an important fish habitat that provides food and refuge for fish, birds, crabs, shrimp and many other marine organisms. What has made it so harmful is the excess amount that is produced. Experts say the unusual amount of artificial dispersed nutrients has caused the excess production of sargassum. Seaweed has existed for centuries, but climate change and inflows of nitrogen and man-made fertilizer from rivers have caused exponential growth over the past decade.

Read more in Spanish:
Diario Libre
Listin Diario

5 June 2023